When a driver in New Jersey is in a car accident, he or she is legally required to stop and wait for law enforcement to arrive. If one of the parties leaves the collision scene before exchanging information with the other motorists involved, it is considered to be a hit-and-run accident.
Hit-and-run victims may be left unsure whether they are able to pursue compensation since there is no identified at-fault party to file a claim or lawsuit against. In these situations, the role of a police officer can be crucial. Law enforcement officers can use their skills and resources to help track down the responsible driver and ensure that justice is served.
Regardless of whether the police are able to locate the driver that caused your accident, you could benefit from consulting with a car accident lawyer. At Judd Shaw Injury Law, we can review your case and help you find your best option for recovering damages. Call us 24/7 at 866-909-6894 to schedule a free case consultation.
Causes of Hit-and-Run Accidents
According to a report from the NHTSA, there are over 700,000 hit-and-run accidents annually in the United States. There are various reasons why a driver may choose to flee the scene of an accident. Most of the time, it is because the driver is trying to avoid punishment for one reason or another.
The following are some reasons why hit-and-run drivers leave the accident scene:
- Drunk driving: In New Jersey, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if your blood alcohol level is .08 or higher. Many hit-and-run accidents are caused by drunk drivers who flee because they do not want to face the penalty of driving under the influence.
- Outstanding warrants: If the driver has warrants out for his arrest for unpaid parking tickets or other crimes, he may leave the accident scene.
- Drugged driving: It is against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana, methamphetamines, or other illegal drugs. A person can also be charged with drugged driving if the side effects from prescription drugs impaired his or her driving ability.
- Transporting of illegal items: A driver may be transporting drugs or other illegal items and flee the accident scene out of fear of his or her car being searched by the responding officers.
- Driving without a license or insurance: A driver who is not properly licensed or who does not hold the required liability insurance may leave an accident scene to avoid penalty.
- Driving an employee vehicle: An employee who is driving a company vehicle may be concerned about facing the consequences of his employer finding out he was in an accident.
How Law Enforcement Handles Hit-and-Run Accidents
The police of New Jersey take hit-and-run accidents seriously. The investigation into the incident begins the moment law enforcement arrives at the scene. Officers take many different actions to attempt to locate drivers who flee from the scene of a motor vehicle collision.
The following are some actions law enforcement may take to track down the hit-and-run driver.
Collecting information from the other parties
The police officer will question you and any other parties involved in the accident who have remained at the accident scene. The officer will request your contact information, license, and registration. The officer will also want you to provide any details you can remember about the hit-and-run driver.
Information that will be helpful about the hit-and-run driver includes:
- Full or partial license plate number
- Make, model, and color of the vehicle
- Distinguishing features of the vehicle
- The direction the driver was headed in
- Characteristics or details you noticed about the driver
- Other details that you remember about the collision
Searching the area and pursuing the other driver
After learning that the accident was a hit-and-run, law enforcement will conduct a search of the area. Police may set up roadblocks to stop vehicles that match the description of the suspect’s vehicle.
In some situations, the police may arrive at the accident scene just as the hit-and-run driver is taking off. The officer would then pursue the fleeing motorist. If caught, the driver could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
Speaking to eyewitnesses
Law enforcement will interview pedestrians or anyone else who happened to witness the accident. The witnesses will be asked to provide their contact information in case of providing testimony when you file a claim or lawsuit.
The police will ask the witnesses to state what they saw before, during, and after the accident and provide any other details that might be relevant to locating the hit-and-run driver.
Reviewing video surveillance footage
Video surveillance or dashcam footage can provide police officers with invaluable information in hit-and-run accident cases. If your accident occurred in an area where businesses have surveillance cameras, there may be recorded footage of the accident.
The video footage may have recorded the type make and model or even the license plate number of the hit-and-run vehicle. Additionally, the surveillance footage could help the officers locate anyone else who was an eyewitness to the incident.
Creating an accident report
The officer at the scene will take any information collected and his personal observations to write up an accident report.
The following details may be in the report:
- The location, time, and date of the collision
- The contact information of all parties involved
- The name and phone number of all eyewitnesses
- A diagram of the accident and damage to property
- Observations about the weather and road conditions
The officer will also usually include his conclusions about the driver and who he thinks is at fault for the car accident.
Options for Compensation Following a Hit-and-Run Accident
If you have been injured in a hit-and-run accident, you are likely concerned about how to recover compensation for damages. One option for compensation is to file a claim with your own insurance company.
Policyholders who have underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage should be able to recover damages in a hit-and-run. However, the amount you recover will depend on the limits of your insurance policy.
Keep in mind that most insurance companies are looking for ways to reduce your payout. It may be in your best interests to speak to a hit-and-run lawyer before speaking to your insurer.
If law enforcement was able to locate the at-fault driver, a lawyer can help you file a personal injury claim or lawsuit to recover damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Loss of income
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress, and;
Discuss Your Hit-and-Run Accident Case With Our Law Firm Today
A car accident can be a painful, frightening, and overwhelming experience. An already difficult situation is made more stressful when the other driver flees the accident scene. You may be left feeling that you have no option for recovery.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, the legal team at Judd Shaw Injury Law is here to help. We can inform you of your legal rights, help you gather information about the hit-and-run, aid the police in their investigation on your behalf, and help you explore all possible compensation options.
Our law firm takes all car accident cases on contingency. You do not owe us a dime unless we recover compensation for you. Call 1-866-909-6894 or complete our simple contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.