Leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information with the other driver is illegal in Wyoming, yet thousands of hit-and-run incidents occur here every year. For the injured party, there is nothing more frustrating than facing medical expenses and other costs after the person who caused the accident has fled. A personal injury lawyer in Casper, Wyoming or Gillette, Wyoming can help you take steps to facilitate the investigation and increase your chances of recovering compensation.
I Was Injured in a Hit-and-Run: What Are My Options?
A hit-and-run is a serious offence that is punishable by law. If authorities can track down the driver who hit you, his or her insurance will need to cover your damages. Additionally, the driver will face severe penalties, including jail time. If the other driver is never found, you will need to use your own insurance policy.
What Is a Hit-and-Run?
A hit-and-run is an accident involving an at-fault driver who abandons the scene of the crash without providing aid to the injured parties or exchanging insurance information. By law, individuals who are involved in accidents are required to pull over and wait at the scene until the police arrive.
Additionally, drivers must help individuals who may be injured by calling an ambulance and taking other reasonable measures to assist them. When asked by the police or others involved in the crash, each driver must provide his or her:
- Contact information
- License plate number
- License number
- Insurance information
Misdemeanor or Felony?
A hit-and-run occurs when a driver fails to meet the legal obligations listed above. In Wyoming, a hit-and-run can either be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. If the accident caused property damage but no injuries, the hit-and-run would be considered a misdemeanor. If anyone was injured or killed in the crash, the hit-and-run would constitute a felony.
Penalties for a Hit-and-Run
Drivers who commit hit-and-run crimes are subject to fines of up to $5,000, jail time, and license suspension. The possible jail time is up to 6 months for a misdemeanor and 1 year for a felony. The length of the license suspension is determined according to the severity of the misconduct. Less serious offenders could get their license reinstated after 6 months, while the most egregious offenses could carry a lifelong suspension.
Collecting Damages on a Hit-and-Run
What Damages Are You Eligible to Collect After a Car Accident?
According to personal injury laws, you have the right to hold the liable party accountable for damages that you can prove. The types of damages you can recover include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. In order to collect these damages, your attorney must be able to demonstrate that the other driver owed you a duty of care, and that your injuries were a direct result of the accident.
How Is the Compensation Normally Collected?
If you sue the other driver, you will file a personal injury lawsuit. However, most cases resolve outside of court with a settlement offer. Wyoming requires all drivers to have insurance, meaning that in most cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance company provides a payout for the claim long before the need to go to court arises.
It can be very difficult to collect a payout from a driver who doesn’t have insurance, even if you win a lawsuit. Chances are, he or she does not have the means to cover your expenses. Often, hit-and-run incidents involve drivers who do not have insurance and want to avoid paying the damages out of pocket.
Who Pays After a Hit-and-Run?
When a hit and run occurs, the police will make an effort to find the culprit. If he or she is found, you can proceed to file a claim against his or her insurance company or press charges. If he or she is never found, your own insurance should cover the damage, depending on your policy. The types of policies that can be helpful in hit-and-run situations are:
- Collision coverage
- Unisured/underinsured motorist coverage
- MedPay coverage
- Personal injury protection
What Should You Do After a Hit-and-Run?
Call an Ambulance
The first thing you should do after any car accident is check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Call an ambulance, even if you do not feel injured. Some injuries can be masked by the adrenaline your body releases under extreme stress, and it is important to get medical attention as early as possible. Additionally, going to the emergency room will create evidence of your injuries.
Notify the Police
Many insurance policies require claimants to file a police report within 24 hours of an accident in order to collect benefits. When the responding officer arrives, be sure to ask for his or her name and the number of the report.
Never try to chase after the other driver. Doing so could increase the damage to your vehicle or even cause you to break the law, yourself.
Document the Scene
Collect as much evidence from the scene of the crash as you can. If you saw the other driver’s plate number before he or she drove away, be sure to write it down. You should also note the time and location of the accident, along with all the details you remember.
Taking pictures and photos of both cars will help to provide visual documentation. When you are creating this evidence, focus on capturing the scene from multiple angles, and be sure to show any areas where the paint on your car is damaged.
Collect Contact Information From Witnesses
If there were any witnesses to the accident, their statements could become extremely valuable during the investigation. Before you leave, ask if you can take down their contact information. They might be contacted by police or representatives of your insurance company for statements.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Reach out to your insurance company within 24 hours of the accident. They will ask you to provide them with as much information as possible, including the evidence you collected at the scene, the contact information for any witnesses, and the police report number.
Get In Touch With a Personal Injury Lawyer in Casper, Wyoming or Gillette, Wyoming
A personal injury attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident and help you submit your claim. Whether you are able to go through the other driver’s insurance or your own, your attorney can collect evidence to show that you were not at fault and that your damages deserve compensation.
Working with a personal injury attorney can be especially helpful in a hit-and-run case involving an at-fault driver who is never found. If you need to pursue compensation through your insurance, your policy will probably require you to give a recorded statement which will be used to determine your settlement amount. An attorney can coach you on how to answer the questions while avoiding statements implying that your actions played a role in the crash.
Request a Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer in Casper, Wyoming or Gillette, Wyoming
Our attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in all sorts of transportation accidents, including hit-and-run incidents. We will take the time to understand all the details of the crash and guide you through the process of recovering as much compensation as possible. To reach us, contact Ochs Law Firm.