Every time you get on the highway, you are accepting a certain amount of risk. No matter how carefully you drive, you are always at the mercy of other drivers on the road who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, distracted, or experiencing road rage. When an accident occurs, everyone involved is legally required to stay, render aid to anyone who might be injured, and identify themselves, including providing any relevant information to police officers if they are summoned. Even those who did not cause the accident are required to stay. If anyone involved in the accident leaves the scene before completing any of these tasks, it is considered a criminal offense and may be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the accident.
Why Do Hit and Runs Occur?
Comparatively high rates of uninsured drivers on New Mexico roads make the chance of a hit and run accident higher here than in other states. Uninsured drivers may be afraid that they will lose their license or be held financially responsible for an accident which they cannot afford. Sometimes, drivers may be afraid that they will be held criminally responsible for injuries or deaths which stemmed from their negligent driving, or they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and do not want to be caught. Additionally, drivers who are in trouble with the law or who do not want to interact with police officers for some reason unrelated to the collision may believe that it is easier to flee the accident than to deal with its consequences.
Steps to Take after a Hit and Run
If you are the victim of a hit and run, you are probably at first reeling from the impact of an auto accident. Once you get over the initial shock, and if you have the presence of mind to take action in this traumatic moment, there are a few things you can do that will help you in the long run. Try to:
- Record the driver's license plate number
- Note the make, model, and color of the vehicle involved in the collision
- Look at the damage done to the other car which might be an identifying mark
- Remember which direction the vehicle was traveling
- Record all information about the scene of the accident, damage to your vehicle, and the time of day, and take pictures if you are able
- Ask for contact information from eyewitnesses who may have seen the collision and who can confirm your story
Collecting Insurance after a Hit and Run
In order to collect from insurance for any property damage and/or bodily injuries sustained in a hit and run accident, it is important to report the collision to your own insurance company as soon after the accident as possible. You will most likely file a police report immediately following the accident, but if they are not available, make sure to write down as much information and documentation on the accident as possible, including eyewitness accounts.
Reimbursement for costs associated with a hit and run usually comes from your own car insurance if they other driver fled the scene. Your car insurance policy most likely includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage which is designed to kick in when the other driver fails to provide insurance for a variety of reasons, including a hit and run.
In cases where your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage does not cover the bills associated with getting your car repaired and recovering from your injuries, there may be other avenues to explore in order to find the necessary compensation. For instance, you may work with the police in an attempt to identify the car and its owner (sometimes hit and run accidents involved borrowed or stolen cars). If the owner of the car can be found, they may, truthfully or falsely, state that they were not the one driving it at the time of the accident. If you can identify the driver, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit against them to recover compensation, as well as press criminal charges.
Legal Assistance for New Mexico Victims
Every hit and run accident is unique and has a number of circumstances that should be considered when attempting to find sufficient compensation. It can feel overwhelming to try to recover and put your life back together while knowing that the person who caused the accident is not being held responsible. At Revo Smith Law, we guide victims of hit and runs through the process of recovery by helping them find sources of just compensation. Call us today at (505) 293-8888 or contact us online.