Legal Options in Hit-and-Run Wrecks
Resource shortages are the main reason that, in many jurisdictions, fewer than 10 percent of hit-and-run drivers are caught and successfully prosecuted. Most local police departments only have four or five investigators to handle hundreds of cases. The high burden of proof in criminal court, as outlined below, contributes to this problem as well.
Therefore, many people assume that, if police do not immediately arrest a negligent driver, they are ineligible for compensation. But a Tampa uninsured driver accident attorney can still obtain fair compensation for these victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Tracking Down the Tortfeasor
Generally, investigators must amass overwhelming evidence to obtain convictions in court. Essentially, this evidence must place the defendant behind the wheel at or near the time of the hit-and-run accident. That usually means compelling witness statements, a near-immediate arrest, or a voluntary confession. Such evidence is not always available.
But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Therefore, if an attorney locates the vehicle’s owner, that’s usually sufficient. It’s more likely than not that the owner was driving the car at a particular time.
In practical terms, a vague description and partial plate number are almost useless in criminal court. But a Tampa personal injury attorney can use this evidence to track down owners and obtain fair compensation.
Surveillance video footage, even if the camera was several blocks or several miles away from the accident scene, sometimes provides the critical proof. Witness statements, even if the witness only saw part of the crash, could be important as well. Frequently, attorneys partner with private investigators to locate this evidence.
Private investigators can also follow-up on physical evidence and other leads that police officers do not take the time to deal with.
Most victims have Uninsured Motorist Coverage riders in the auto insurance policies. UIM insurance usually compensates victims in hit-and-run cases even if an attorney cannot locate the tortfeasor.
Available compensation largely hinges on the policy’s terms. However, in many cases, UIM coverage limits damages to economic losses.
The good news is that these claims are completely one-sided. Car crash defenses, like contributory negligence and last clear chance, do not come into play. Furthermore, these claims often settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms. Insurance companies are usually loath to pay claims. But they do want to keep their customers happy, especially if they were injured by someone else’s negligence.
An attorney plays a valuable role in the UIM claims process. Lawyers advocate for victims in arbitration hearings. Most UIM claims go to arbitration instead of trial. It’s illegal for most policyholders to sue their own insurance companies. Furthermore, an attorney helps ensure that the insurance company does not take adverse action against the victim, such as raising the victim’s rates or cancelling the victim’s coverage.
Rely on a Diligent Lawyer
If a hit-and-run driver injured you, you have legal options, regardless of the initial investigator’s results. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact Mark H. Wright, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.