In Georgia, the number of hit-and-run car accidents is on the rise. Statistics show that about one in every five vehicle crashes in the state involves a hit-and-run driver. This is why Georgia has taken the offense of hit-and-run or leaving the scene (of an accident) very seriously.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: If you are in an accident with a hit-and run driver and their identity is unknown, protections may be available through the injured driver’s own auto insurance policy, the policy of the vehicle in which they were riding, or through the policy of a member of their household. Uninsured motorist coverage insures your vehicle for accidents caused by drivers who are not carrying the minimum required liability insurance. However, it also covers you when you are involved in an accident caused by an unknown driver. This is known as a “John Doe” claim. Therefore, if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, your own uninsured motorist policy, the policy of the vehicle in which you were riding, or through the policy of a member of your household may provide compensation for your injuries, lost wages and other damages. We can review the auto insurance policy to determine your options for seeking the compensation you need.
The “hit-and-run driver”: If the identity of the driver responsible for the accident later becomes known (and proved), the driver will not only be held financially responsible for the accident, the driver may be subjected to punitive damages – an additional monetary award that is above and beyond the amount you may be entitled for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are awarded to punish, penalize, or deter the wrongdoer.
Criminal Consequences: The criminal consequences for leaving the scene of an accident can be steep. A conviction for hit-and-run driving that causes property damage can increase your insurance premiums. Additionally, leaving the scene is prosecuted as a criminal offense.
Additionally, if convicted of a hit-and-run, a driver will face-at a minimum-a four-month driver’s license suspension. This time period will be increased if the accident caused bodily injury or death of another, or if the driver has had previous convictions for leaving the scene.
Georgia law defines three statutes with regard to hit-and-run accidents:
O.C.G.A. Section 40-6-270 (The Hit and Run Statute)
The most serious of Georgia’s hit-and-run laws, Section 40-6-270 requires the driver of any vehicle who is involved in an accident which results in injury to or the death of another person, or damage to another vehicle attended by a person, to immediately stop at the scene of the accident. The driver must then give their name, address and vehicle registration number, as well as their driver’s license information (upon request) to the other driver or attendant of the vehicle hit. The driver is also obligated to provide for medical treatment of those injured in the accident, and contact law enforcement to report the accident. The driver must stay at the scene of the accident until all of these requirements are fulfilled.
If the accident causes serious personal injury to or death of another and the driver fails to stop at the scene and abide by the above requirements, the driver will be guilty of a felony punishable by not less than one but not more than five years in prison.
If the accident causes injury other than a serious injury or damage to an attended vehicle, and the driver fails to stop and abide by the aforementioned requirements, then the driver will be guilty of a misdemeanor and:
– For the first offense, be fined not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to one year;
– For the second offense within a five-year period, be fined not less than $600 nor more than $1,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to a year;
– For the third offense within a five-year period, be fined $1,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to a year.
O.C.G.A Section 40-6-271 (Striking Unattended Vehicles)
Under Georgia law, a driver must also stop at the scene of an accident when involved in a collision with an unattended vehicle. Section 40-6-271 requires the driver who strikes an unattended vehicle to stop, locate and notify the owner of the vehicle hit of the driver’s name and address (as well as the name and address of the owner of the vehicle striking the unattended car if not the same as the driver). If the driver cannot locate the owner of the unattended vehicle, then the driver must leave a written note on the vehicle hit with the driver’s name and address (as well as the name and address of the owner of the vehicle striking the unattended car, if different from the driver) in a noticeable or conspicuous place.
The failure of the driver to stop and provide this information makes the driver liable for a misdemeanor.
O.C.G.A. 40-6-273 (Duty to Report)
Finally, there is always a duty to report accidents that result in injury, death or property damage. Section 40-6-273 requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that causes injury to or the death of any person or property damage to an apparent extent of $500 or more to immediately give notice of the accident to the local police department, if the collision takes place in a municipality. If the accident occurs outside of a municipality, the driver must immediately notify either the county sheriff’s office or nearest office of the state highway patrol.
As you can see, there are strict requirements for reporting accidents and the penalties for hit-and-run drivers can be very grave – especially when the accident causes personal injury or death. You should always remain at the scene of an accident and contact law enforcement, no matter how minor the accident seems.
If you have been injured in an accident involving a driver who left the scene or a loved one was killed by a hit-and-run driver, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve. The qualified personal injury attorneys at Murphy & Garner, LLC, offer free consultations to injured people and their families. We will evaluate your case, and let you know what your legal options are, whether that means a negotiated settlement or a lawsuit.
Contact the experienced attorneys at Murphy & Garner today at (678) 563-1584.