Innocent drivers and pedestrians may be victims of another vehicle driver's hit and run tragedy. According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hit and run fatalities have risen from 2009 to 2011. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety stated that 1 in 5 pedestrians were killed in hit and run crashes. In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270 requires any driver who is involved in a motor vehicle crash to stop or return to the crash scene. If the defendant driver causes injury to another person, that driver is guilty of a misdemeanor. However, if the crash results in serious injury or even death then the defendant driver is guilty of a felony and be imprisoned between one to five years.
MAKING A CLAIM FOR A HIT AND RUN CRASH
Unfortunately if the identity of the hit and run driver is unknown, the victim driver and passenger are limited to making a claim with automobile insurance that covers the vehicle that they were in when this tragedy occurred. This automobile insurance is commonly known as the uninsured or under-insured (UM) insurance. The steps in making a claim with the UM insurance company is as follows:
- Notify the UM insurance of the hit and run incident within 30 days from the date of loss because many UM insurers have this section in its policy. See Flamm v. Doe, 167 Ga. App. 587, 307 S.E.2d 105 (1983).
- If the UM insurance company requires a statement under oath within 30 days after reporting the hit and run incident, provide a written statement under oath to that insurer. See Fremichael v. Doe, 221 Ga. App, 698, 472 S.E.2d 440 (1996).
Because many UM insurers have sections in its policy that describes a UM claimant's duties after a loss has occurred, it is best to review that policy language. However, in situations where a claimant has notified the UM insurer of the hit and run incident but did not provide a sworn statement of that loss, the UM insurer's actions can constitute a waiver. This waiver may prevent the UM insurer from asserting a defense of a claimant's failure to follow other strict requirements after reporting the incident. Generally after being notified, the UM insurer's reception and retention of that claim without objections such as the lack of a sworn statement constitutes its waiver as discussed in Fremichael v. Doe, 221 Ga. App, 698, 472 S.E.2d 440 (1996) and Clark v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 171 Ga. App. 554, 320 S.E.2d 380 (1984). Ultimately, whether the sworn statement of loss was waived is a question for the jury. See Fremichael v. Doe, 221 Ga. App, 698, 472 S.E.2d 440 (1996).
WHAT IS MY HIT AND RUN CLAIM WORTH?
If the hit and run driver is unknown and you are making a claim only with the UM insurance company, you are entitled to compensatory damages. These include your current and future medical expenses along with current and future pain and suffering. Please see our bodily injury claim value page for more details.
If you later discover the hit and run driver, you will have a claim against that hit and run vehicle's liability insurance for compensatory damages as discussed above as well as punitive damages. That hit and run driver's failure to stop or offer aid at the crash scene is admissible as evidence of conscious indifference to the consequences of his or her actions to impose liability as discussed by the Georgia Court of Appeals in Langlois v. Wolford, 246 Ga. App. 209, 539 S.E.2d 565 (2000).
Under O.C.G.A § 51-12-5.1, this allows the imposition of punitive damages against that hit and run driver who should have remained at the crash scene. Punitive damages are additional monetary damages that is designed to penalize, punish or deter a defendant for his or her wrongful actions. In Georgia, there is no monetary limit or "cap" for punitive damages that a jury can award at trial.
HOW WE CAN HELP
Our expertise in dealing with the UM insurance company will help you fulfill the requirements that each UM insurer imposes on you in a hit and run vehicle crash. We will ensure that you receive the best care for any injuries you sustained from this unfortunate crash. We are dedicated in obtaining the compensation that you deserve for your injuries. For a free consultation, connect with us and we will guide you through your hit and run crash.