All too often, we hear from victims seriously injured in hit and run type accidents. A “hit and run” accident occurs when a vehicle causes a crash and subsequently flees the scene. Most times, these crashes occur between two vehicles, but hit and runs can also occur when a vehicle strikes a bicyclist or pedestrian and flees. There are many questions that surround these types of crashes, including how to hold the negligent party accountable when there is little to no contact information or other identifying information available.
In early November of 2018, a 4th grade Girl Scout troop from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin was volunteering their time to pick up litter along the roadway of a nearby town when a pickup truck crossed the center line, drove into the ditch and struck several members of the group. The driver then fled the scene. Three of the Girl Scouts and one adult with the group died as a result of the incident. The driver eventually turned himself in.
More recently, on Friday, February 8, 2019, a Milwaukee Department of Public Works employee named Bryan Rodriguez was working on the city’s north side filling a pot hole when he was struck and killed by a hit and run driver. In a Journal Sentinel article, Mayor Tom Barrett is quoted saying that Mr. Rodriguez was following the standard procedure of the department for filling a pothole. He was positioned directly behind the truck as he filled the pothole when a car struck and killed him. The driver of the vehicle fled on food, leaving the car at the scene. Police did locate the driver, and she was taken into custody.
When crashes happen, people sometimes go into temporary shock and are not able to think clearly. If you are involved in a crash and it becomes clear that the person who caused the accident is going to flee, it is important to get as much identifying information as possible. The most obvious bit of information to obtain is their license plate number, but even the color, make and model of the car can be useful. Authorities can use the license plate number to check who the vehicle was registered to and use that information in their investigation.
It is also important to call the police – not only to conduct an investigation and try to find the person who caused the crash, but to generate an Accident Report to document the crash and the fact that it was a hit and run. The accident report will also be useful when filing a claim with your insurance company soon thereafter.
It is also useful to check if there are any traffic cameras in the area where the crash occurred that may have captured any identifying information. If there were no traffic cameras nearby, area businesses may have surveillance cameras mounted onto their buildings that captured some useful evidence. With regard to traffic or surveillance camera footage, time is of the essence because many cameras recycle old footage by taping over it, sometimes after only a matter of hours. It is crucial to act as quickly as possible to recover the footage before it is destroyed. A personal injury attorney can work with their investigators to try and locate and preserve all pertinent evidence, which is why it is important to reach out for help right away.
Take photographs to document the scene of the crash and damages to your vehicle as it appears immediately after the incident. Even if the at-fault vehicle is no longer present, it is important to document the damages to your vehicle as well as the location at which the crash occurred. The photographs should also be time- and date-stamped to further corroborate the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.
If there were any witnesses to the crash, take down their contact information in case you, your attorney or the police need to contact them for more information. If you do not take down their names and contact information at the scene, chances are you will not be able to locate them. Witness testimony is critical in many cases as it provides an independent, unbiased account of how the incident transpired. Witness observations may also help investigators locate the person who caused the accident as they might have gotten a better look at the vehicle that caused the crash.
If the negligent party who caused the hit and run accident is unable to be located, that does not necessarily mean that the injured victim is out of luck as far as compensation goes. The injured person can still recover under their own auto insurance policy or the policy covering the vehicle they were in at the time of the crash. Hit and run crashes are generally treated as Uninsured Motorist cases, so the injured person can recover under their own policy for injuries sustained in the crash. The Uninsured Motorist coverage steps in the shoes of the coverage that should apply but is unknown (or does not exist in most cases) because the driver fled the scene and was unable to be located.
If you or someone you know has been the victim in a hit and run type accident, our firm may be able to help. Time is of the essence in these types of cases as critical evidence may be lost if not obtained quickly. At the Groth Law Firm, our goal is to take all of the hard work off of our clients’ shoulders so that they can focus on recovering. We will work with investigators to try and find the person who caused the accident, secure and preserve any pertinent evidence and work directly with the insurance company so that you don’t have to. The Groth Law Firm has handled dozens of hit and run cases over the years, and their team is equipped to fight for you in the most difficult of times. Don’t wait – call the Groth Law Firm today for a free consultation at (414) 375-2030!