How Much Can You Sue for a Hit & Run?
Hit-and-run victims experience the problems of a crash-related injury with added trauma. There is no one to exchange information with, no name to report to insurance companies, and (at first) no one to sue for damages. However, New York has specific insurance laws and policy minimums that help hit and run victims recover from their injuries and other damages with compensation.
What is a Hit and Run?
In New York, State law requires any driver involved in an accident with a pedestrian or another car to stop and report it to the police, regardless of whether he or she caused the accident. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, since people may try to flee the scene in order to avoid liability. When the driver leaves the scene without identifying him or herself or providing help if someone needs it, they violate the law.
New York legal requirements after an accident are:
- Stop to see if anyone is injured, and if damage was done to property.
- Share contact and insurance information with the other party and obtain their contact and insurance information as well.
- Call 911 if someone is injured, killed, or if there is damage totaling more than $1,500. Wait for an officer to arrive and complete a report.
Not following one’s legal obligation and leaving the scene of the accident may result in penalties including fines and jail time. Depending on the severity of the victim’s injury, the crime can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.
How Frequent are Hit and Runs?
Recent studies from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show that a hit-and-run accident occurs once every 43 seconds in the United States. New York City in particular has suffered from a “hit and run epidemic” for years.
Reports state that hit and runs in NYC increased 25% between 2013 and 2017, although most of those crashes involved property damage and not bodily injury. However, in 2019, 14% of traffic fatalities resulted from a collision in which the driver left the scene. This is an apparent decline from 30% in 2018, but still a cause for concern.
The same studies and reports provide these additional facts:
- Nearly 11 in every 100 collisions are a hit and run
- 66% of hit-and-run fatalities are pedestrians or bicyclists
- Fatal hit and runs generally occur because of motorist fatigue or impairment, poor road conditions, motorists failing to comply with traffic laws, or pedestrians being unaware of their surroundings
Other reasons a driver may flee the scene include:
- Driving with a suspended or invalid license
- Committing a crime (stolen vehicle)
- Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Driving a company car and doesn’t want to lose employment
Can You Sue for a Hit and Run?
Victims of hit and run accidents don’t have an identity of the at-fault driver to hold accountable for medical bills, property damage and other financial needs related to the accident. In a true hit and run, that person is never found. This can make personal injury victims feel helpless and endure deeper levels of trauma. However, New York auto insurance laws provide options for compensation in such circumstances.
Insurance Options for Hit and Run Victims in New York
In order to register a car in New York, each driver must purchase and be covered by specific insurance policies. The following are the minimum coverage amounts that hit and run victims can possibly recover from.
No-Fault Personal Injury Protection
Drivers must carry a minimum of $50,000 in personal injury protection coverage, also called “Basic No-Fault Coverage”). This means all medical expenses, lost earnings and other necessary financial burdens are covered up to the first $50,000 regardless of who was at fault or if negligence was present. This policy is in place to quickly reimburse economic loss from injury and does not cover property damage or non-economic loss such as pain and suffering. Specifically, it covers:
- Ongoing medical and rehabilitation expenses
- 80% of lost earnings up to $2,000 each year (for three years)
- Up to $25 per day for other necessary expenses (for one year)
- $2,000 death benefit to the estate of deceased victims, plus the $50,000 No-Fault limit
How to File a Hit-and-Run Claim Through Insurance:
- Fill out an application and file a notice of claim to the insurer. If filing as a passenger, file with the insurance company of the car you were in. Pedestrians should file with their own insurance policy.
- File within 30 days of the accident. It’s important not to delay or assume it’s not necessary. In car accidents, no-fault coverage pays prior to health insurance coverage.
- If filing for lost earnings, it will be necessary to obtain documentation from an employer proving all loss of income within 90 days.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
This mandatory coverage protects victims in the event they are injured as the result of negligent actions by a hit and run motorist or uninsured vehicle. As with other policies, many motorists carry higher liability limits and additional personal injury protection beyond the minimums required by law.
Motorists must carry a minimum policy of:
- $25,000 for bodily injury, or $50,000 for any injury resulting in death
- For any two or more people involved in one accident: $50,000 for bodily injury, or $100,000 for injury resulting in death for two or more people
Uninsured motorist claims should be filed with the victim’s own insurance company within 90 days. They must contact the insurer to inform them of the accident, how it happened, and that the other driver did not have sufficient insurance to cover the losses.
To make a claim using uninsured motorist coverage it must be proven that there was contact with another vehicle. Filing a police report at the scene is a crucial first step for hit-and-run victims, as it forms evidence that another vehicle was involved.
Insurance companies will require a great amount of documentation to prove eligibility and the extent of damages while trying to settle any claim. It is a good idea to have an attorney assist in gathering evidence, making a claim, and communicating with the insurance company.
Getting Compensation for a Hit-and-Run Accident in NY Without Insurance
Victims of hit and runs that do not have insurance available to them can still be eligible for uninsured motorist protection and no-fault coverage with the New York Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation, or MVAIC.
MVAIC applications for New York Residents who were injured by a vehicle in the state under circumstances such as:
- Hit and run where the vehicle and driver were unidentified
- Vehicle was uninsured
- Vehicle was stolen and/or denied coverage
The following requirements must also be met:
- Victim does not have other insurance to access
- Victim is not the owner of the at-fault vehicle
- Victim is not the spouse of the at-fault vehicle’s owner
Filing through MVAIC has many strict time requirements in order to be eligible for compensation:
- The accident must be reported to authorities within 24 hours of occurring. (Obtain police report.)
- This Notice of Intention form needs to be completed and submitted within 90 days if the case is a hit and run. The victim has 180 days to complete the form if he or she is able to identify the driver.
- Evidence will need to be provided, such as police reports, medical reports, and/or surveillance footage if possible
Failure to meet these time requirements may result in MVAIC denying a claim. It is strongly suggested to work alongside an experienced hit and run attorney to help navigate the process.
What Should Victims Do if Someone Flees an Accident?
Anyone hit by a driver who attempts to leave the scene should do the following:
- Do not try to chase or apprehend the driver. Catching the driver is not worth the risk of putting anyone in further danger. It is more important to stay at the scene, even if it is tempting to follow him or her. Car chases are never safe to engage in, and the driver could be intoxicated, under the influence of drugs, or otherwise dangerous.
- Call the police—even if injuries and damage are not apparent at the scene. It will always be beneficial to have a police report on file.
- Record detailed notes about how the accident happened and include any identifying details about the car or driver. Try to make note of the car’s make, model, color, and license plate number. Include any physical characteristics of the driver, if possible.
- Take photos of the damage and circumstances around the accident. Take pictures of any damage to other property, street signs and signals, road conditions, etc. Taking pictures from every angle will help build a strong case, if necessary.
- Gather witness information: write down names, phone numbers, email addresses for anyone who may have observed what happened, even if they don’t think they saw anything important. Sometimes small details are later significant to police and lawyers.
- Call your insurance company, if possible. Keep the details simple, and do not admit to any fault until consulting with a legal professional. And, do not accept any initial settlement offers through insurance. The initial offer is typically multiple times smaller than the amount awarded through a personal injury lawsuit.
- Contact a lawyer. An experienced attorney’s investigation is often the only way victims get full compensation for their injuries.
How a Hit and Run Lawyer Can Help
Hit and run collisions are complicated situations that are better endured with the guidance of a skilled and experienced lawyer. In best case scenarios, legal teams can track down the at-fault driver and recover thousands of dollars of compensation for the victim.
In any case, an injury attorney can assist with completing important paperwork and staying ahead of deadlines. They can also work to get access to footage and surveillance accounts that police don’t thoroughly investigate. Anyone injured in a hit and run crash should contact an injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss options.
Contact Sobo & Sobo for a New York Hit and Run Lawyer
A hit and run accident can be scary and overwhelming, but you don’t need to go through it alone. The attorneys at Sobo & Sobo have over 50 years of experience helping injured victims of hit-and-run accidents across the Hudson Valley and New York City. We offer free initial consultations and case evaluations; you don’t owe a thing unless we win your case. Our goal is to get full and fair compensation for your losses.
We serve victims across the Hudson Valley and New York City with offices conveniently located in the Bronx, Inwood, Middletown, Monticello, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Spring Valley. Call today at 855-468-7626 or contact us online.