In Georgia, not only is it wrong to leave the scene of a car accident but it is also illegal. Being in a car accident is stress enough but having the at-fault driver just drive off without exchanging information, or at the very least making sure you’re all right, is not only infuriating but very terrifying as well.
Steps to Take After the Accident
Immediately following a hit-and-run accident there are a couple of things that you should do to ensure the best possible outcome:
Call the police immediately. Calling the police will ensure that you get a more accurate police report and witnesses are gathered faster. This will give you, and the police, a better chance of finding the at-fault driver.
Gather as much evidence as possible. Evidence such as license plate, make, model, and color of the car, description of the damages to the other vehicle and what direction was the other vehicle headed.
Make sure that you, or the police, give a statement and contact information. This is especially helpful if the accident occurred when you were away from your car, such as in a parking lot.
However, one thing you should never do, regardless of the situation, is leave the scene of the crime and pursue the at-fault driver.
This is something that might seem like a good idea at first but this could potentially have devastating results for your case. Not only would your chances of finding witnesses are reduced but once you get around to contacting the police there might be some suspicion as to who was really at fault. It’s best to stay at the scene of the crime and contact the police and a Gwinnett County car accident lawyer.
Consequences for the Responsible Party
Like in a DUI accident, if the at-fault driver is found, the plaintiff can benefit from punitive damages, or punishment damages. However, hit-and-run type of accidents are a unique type of cases because deciding how to proceed and move forward are almost entirely dependent on whether the at-fault driver is found.
The advantages of finding the at fault driver include:
This is the best possible outcome because then the case can be treated like a normal auto accident with the added benefits of having punitive damages (punitive damages are rights given to the plaintiff to ask for more money in the settlement or ask for more punishments to the defendant).
Having the ability to use punitive damages to your advantage will help you get a better settlement but it will immensely help if your case goes to court because you will be able to ask for money in the settlement. In fact, if you can prove in court that you qualify for punitive damages, such as the driver was drinking and driving or ran from the scene of the crime, then there is no limit to how much you can ask for in your settlement.
Uninsured At-Fault Driver
However, because there are many reasons for an at-fault driver leaving the scene of the crime (i.e., no insurance, no citizenship, DUI, outstanding warrant), there is the chance that the at-fault driver does not have an insurance company that will pay for the damages.
In a case like this, you can go after the at-fault driver and make them pay out-of-pocket. However, this is not always the best option to take. Simply put, there’s probably a reason to why the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance and that’s probably because they can’t afford it and it they can’t afford it then they probably don’t have enough money to begin with to pay for all your damages. Assuming you decide to sue them and you win the case, the at-fault driver can qualify and become something called judgement proof (this is something given to a defendant, based on their financial situation, that exempts them from having to pay a settlement even if a court ruling is done against them). In other words, they don’t have to pay even if the court said that they should because they simply cannot afford it.
In this case its better for you to use your uninsured motorist coverage policy and get the settlement from your own insurance company. This type of coverage protects against at fault drivers that don’t have insurance and can’t pay out-of-pocket. This will ensure that you get compensated for your pain and suffering, property damages, or medical bills.
Unfortunately, if the at-fault driver in your hit-and-run accident is not found, this is the less favorable outcome because in this situation you only have one option and that’s to use your underinsured motorist coverage. Not only that but because you can’t find the at-fault driver then that means that you also do not have access to punitive damages and must rely on your own insurance company to pay for damages, pain and suffering, and medical bills.
The good news, your premiums will not go up nor can your own insurance company cancel your insurance policy for filing an UM claim. In these circumstances, Georgia law also prohibits insurance companies from cancelling existing policies.
Unfortunately, not having UM coverage can hurt your chances of having a good outcome if you’re ever in a hit-and-run accident. As stated above, if the driver is found but doesn’t have insurance then its very difficult to make the at-fault driver responsible and if the driver is not found then your only viable option is to rely on your uninsured motorist coverage for compensation.