A hit-and-run accident occurs when the driver who caused the accident flees the scene. Hit-and-run accidents may involve another car (parked or while driving), a motorcyclist, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian.
The reasons an at-fault driver leaves the scene of a wreck vary from person to person: they may be scared, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, have a criminal history, or lack motor vehicle insurance coverage.
Regardless, there is no excuse for running from the scene of an accident. Someone could be seriously injured and require immediate medical attention.
We’ll examine what the law in Georgia states about hit-and-run accidents and what it takes to recover compensation if you’ve been injured by a reckless driver.
Georgia Hit-And-Run Law
Hit-and-run accidents and the duty of a driver to stop at or return to the scene of a wreck are covered under the Georgia Code § 40-6-270.
(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of any person or in damage to a vehicle... shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident or... return to the scene of the accident...
The at-fault driver is also required to:
- Give their name, address, and vehicle registration number.
- Show their driver's license.
- Render aid to anyone injured, including arranging transportation if needed or requested.
- Make every reasonable effort to contact emergency medical services and law enforcement to report the accident and request assistance if an injured victim is unconscious, appears deceased, or cannot communicate.
- Remain at the scene of the wreck for as long as required.
Failing to stop — especially if the wreck resulted in someone’s injury or death — is classified as a felony. If convicted, the guilty person may be imprisoned for 1-5 years.
If the accident caused property damage or minor injuries, the at-fault party is considered to have committed a misdemeanor. If convicted, the guilty person may be fined, imprisoned, or both, depending on the situation and their actions.
Hit-and-Run Accident Statistics for Georgia
Hit-and-run accidents are on the rise, with Georgia ranking 4th in the U.S. for fatal hit-and-run crashes.
Nationwide, more than 60% of hit-and-run victims killed are pedestrians and bicyclists. In 20% of hit-and-run cases, pedestrian deaths could have been avoided had the driver not fled the scene.
Overall, there were an estimated 737,000 hit-and-run collisions in 2015 and a record-high number of 2,049 pedestrian fatalities in 2016 (72 deaths were recorded in Georgia).
Georgia enjoys warm weather and mild seasons, so accidents involving people walking and bicycling are more common than in other states.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
A hit-and-run accident is a scary experience. Your car may have been damaged and you’re left with painful injuries.
Here are some critical steps to take to help catch the driver who hit you as well as protect your ability to receive financial compensation.
Step 1. (a) If you’re in a vehicle and you’re injuries are life-threatening or severe, pull over on the side of the road away from traffic. (b) If you’re an injured bicyclist or pedestrian, move out of the way of traffic if possible. Should you have severe injuries, call out for help and make yourself as visible as possible. Call 911 and wait for paramedics to arrive and treat your wounds.
Step 2. If you don’t have a dashcam or video footage, write down everything you remember about the vehicle and the driver who hit you. Focus on the make, model, and color of the car, as well as the physical description of the driver. Write down the license plate number, including the state and county listed on it. Having the license plate number is one of the most helpful pieces of information you can give investigators.
Step 3. Look for witnesses. Ask other drivers, pedestrians, or onlookers what they saw and for their contact information.
Step 4. Take pictures of the accident scene, your injuries, and vehicle damage.
Step 5. A hit and run is a crime. For an investigation to happen, you need to call the police. Call 911 to report the hit and run, regardless of how many vehicles there are or aren’t, and whether there are victims with serious or no injuries. Help law enforcement officers investigating the crash by completing a police report.
Step 6. Even if you think you feel fine after an accident, whiplash, concussions, and other internal injuries may take a day or two to appear. Visit the ER or schedule a visit with your primary care doctor. Getting a medical evaluation will not only protect your health but also document your injuries.
Step 7. Notify your car insurance company of the hit and run. Stick to the facts of the accident. Don’t get into an extended conversation about fault. If the insurance agent or adjuster starts pressing you with intrusive questions, talk to a hit-and-run attorney before continuing.
Finding a hit-and-run driver can take time. The more information you can provide the police regarding the driver and their vehicle, the quicker the search.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In the best-case scenario, the driver returns to the scene or is later found and they have car insurance as required by Georgia law. This will make it easier to obtain a settlement offer from the insurance company to cover your medical bills and other expenses.
In some cases, though, the driver is either never found or they turn out to not have insurance. If there’s no car insurance, it will be difficult to recover money from the at-fault individual for all of your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage to your vehicle.
Your best option then is to use your car insurance coverage. Uninsured motorist (UM), underinsured motorist (UIM), and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage may be able to cover some of your medical and car repair costs.
If you're not sure that you have uninsured motorist coverage, check your declarations of coverage sheet. If you don't see it on your insurance policy, we highly recommend you call your car insurance agent and sign up for it. In most cases, the coverage is inexpensive and worth investing in should a collision ever happen.
Your insurance company is required to offer you the option to add UM to your policy on the insurance application. If we find out they don't have proof that you rejected the add-on coverage, the law gives you the benefit of the doubt and grants you the UM coverage automatically.
Another route we can take is to find out if any relatives were living with you at the time of the wreck. If they owned an insured vehicle with UM coverage, we may be able to apply that coverage to you.
Hit-and-Run Accident Lawyer
After a hit and run, your insurance coverage may not be enough. Perhaps the insurance company is trying to blame you for what happened. Maybe the driver stopped, but they didn’t give you their contact information.
No matter the reason, if you’re injured due to a hit and run and struggling to recover financially after the accident, you may have the right to take legal action. Schedule a consultation with one of our Atlanta hit-and-run attorneys at Gary Martin Hays & Associates today.