WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO FIND A HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER?
Of all the things that can be frustrating about being in an accident, watching a hit-and-run driver zoom away without getting their information, especially if they were at fault for the crash. Not only is it unethical, it’s illegal in Colorado, where the law states that all drivers must stop at the scene of an accident, no matter how minor it is.
Once the driver has disappeared, it may feel like there’s no way to track them down if the injured person couldn’t record their license plate info. However, that’s not always the case. Here are some tactics that may help identify the hit-and-run driver, usually done in conjunction with the police and/or a personal injury attorney.
- File a police report immediately. The injured person (if they’re physically able to do so) should call the police and file a report. Even if they can’t remember the license plate info, any details they remember–color and make of the vehicle, how many people were in it, etc.–could help police track it down.
- Eyewitnesses. If people are in the accident area, check with them to see if they caught more details of the accident. There have been cases where bystanders took photos of the car leaving the accident scene, which helped police identify the car and driver.
- Security cameras. If the accident happened somewhere with buildings, commercial or residential, that might have security cameras running, checking to see if there’s footage that caught the accident may help identify the hit-and-run driver.
- DMV records. Even if full license plate info wasn’t captured, partial info or descriptions of the vehicle’s color, make, and model could allow law enforcement to review DMV records to find matching records.
- Social media. This is a newer technique used by legal teams and law enforcement, and it can be surprising how many good tips and leads it can produce.
It’s highly recommended that the victim work with an experienced attorney who understands the tactics needed to try and identify the hit-and-run driver.
IF I’M PHYSICALLY ABLE, SHOULD I CHASE THE HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER?
This is a frequent impulse from people involved in these types of accidents. They’re shocked and angry and want to chase down the person who left the scene. However, it’s usually not advisable for several reasons.
- Leaving the scene of the accident to chase the hit-and-run driver is illegal in the sense that both parties have now left the scene. Both are required to stay by Colorado law. Even if one is trying to track down the other, leaving the scene puts them legally in the wrong.
- Injuries may be worse than they initially seem. The person chasing may think their injuries are minor and they’re fine to drive. However, many injuries, even serious ones, don’t always present symptoms at first. Someone may not actually be in good enough shape to drive and end up with a worse accident down the road if they suddenly pass out or otherwise lose their ability to function in the driver’s seat.
- Road rage. Even if someone catches up to the hit-and-run driver, there may still be danger ahead if the hit-and-run driver is panicked and acts out.
WHAT IS COLORADO’S COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE LAW?
Colorado follows what’s known as the 50% modified comparative negligence law. This states that if the injured person is found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, they can’t file for damages. People might think that the hit-and-run driver is 100% at fault for leaving the scene and breaking the law, but that’s not always the case. For example, the victim might have been speeding, so had some fault. In those cases, if the fault is lower than 51%, any damages they’re awarded would be reduced by the percentage of fault. So if they’re found to be 30% at fault and are awarded $10,000, they’d receive only $7,000.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES IF THE HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER IS CAUGHT AND CONVICTED?
The consequences depend on various factors, including the accident’s severity and resulting injuries. The more minor the scenario, the more likely it is to be charged as a misdemeanor that could result in anywhere from 10 days to 12 months in jail.
In more severe cases, including where someone died or suffered severe injuries, it’s more likely going to be charged as a felony. Conviction of felony charges of leaving the scene of an accident could lead to up to 12 years in prison.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I WAS INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING A HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER?
The first thing to do is to remain at the scene and call the police. Once they’ve permitted you to leave, see a doctor as soon as possible to assess your injuries, even if they seem minor.
Then call Genco Injury Attorneys at 303-500-1376 for a free case evaluation. We can help develop a plan to pursue the hit-and-run driver and, if found, determine the best approach to seeking damages and financial compensation for your injuries.
One thing you should not do is, if the driver is found, talk to them or their insurance representative or attorney. Even though the driver broke the law by leaving the scene of the accident, they may still try to push fault onto you for the accident in order to avoid paying damages, or they may want you to quickly sign a settlement agreement that ends up being too low. Don’t discuss anything with them, but forward all communications to your attorney.