How Can Victims of Hit-and-Run MVAs Pursue Legal Action in Suffolk County?

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How Can Victims of Hit-and-Run MVAs Pursue Legal Action in Suffolk County?

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The Legal Process for Victims of Hit-and-Run Accidents

Every year in the United States, there are more than half a million hit-and-run accidents — and this number has been on an increasing trend. These crashes can leave the injured party with very few options for recourse unless the other driver can be found. If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, it’s vital that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible to help you determine your next steps, which may include filing a personal injury claim.

What Qualifies as a Hit-and-Run Accident?

In the state of New York, all drivers are required by law to stop if they are involved in a car accident, no matter how minor. This allows them to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver to document the accident and ensure the insurance companies have what they need to follow up. A hit-and-run accident is when one driver doesn’t stop after the accident and, instead, drives off without exchanging information. This is usually — but not always — done as an attempt to avoid responsibility for the accident.

Reasons Drivers May Flee the Scene of a Crash

Hit-and-run accidents happen every day, but drivers may have different reasons for choosing to flee the scene. In many cases, the driver may leave because they don’t want to interact with the police officers who will be called to the scene to take an accident report. This can happen if the driver:

  • Is driving on a suspended or revoked license
  • Is a few points away from having their license suspended
  • Is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Has illegal substances within the vehicle
  • Has outstanding warrants
  • Is driving without insurance
  • Is present in the country illegally
  • Is driving a stolen vehicle or a vehicle with stolen tags

However, a driver leaving the scene isn’t always indicative of legal issues. The person could be scared of interacting with police or have panicked at having caused the accident and left without thinking about the consequences. In situations where the accident was very minor, the driver may not have even been aware that there was an impact and gone about their day unknowingly.

No matter why another driver didn’t stop after an accident, it’s important to take action to document the crash and understand your rights. Call the police to ensure that an officer comes out to file a report and investigate the scene. This is likely to be required for your insurance company to handle the claim, and it can increase your chances of finding the driver. The officer may be able to get security camera footage from local businesses or traffic cams or identify and interview witnesses.

The next step is to contact a personal injury attorney in Suffolk County who has experience with hit-and-run cases. They can follow up to see if the driver was identified and help you negotiate with the insurance companies.

What Happens If the Driver Can’t Be Located?

Unfortunately, there are some instances when a driver who flees the scene of an accident is able to get away and can’t be identified or located. However, this doesn’t mean that you are out of options.

New York’s No-Fault System and the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation

New York is a no-fault state for car accidents. This means that the payouts for many accidents are handled by your own insurance company instead of the at-fault driver’s as it is in other states. New York requires that all drivers carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage as part of their car insurance. You are required to carry at least $50,000 of PIP coverage on your insurance policy, but it is possible to opt in to more.

One of the benefits of New York being a no-fault state is that you don’t have to necessarily identify the other party or prove fault to be able to file a claim with your insurance company. But if your medical bills and lost income exceed your PIP coverage, you can be left with a significant financial burden. If you are able to identify the other driver, you can file a personal injury suit against them for whatever the insurance didn’t cover. This can also include compensation for pain and suffering if your injuries qualify as serious.

How Long Do You Have to File a Claim?

In New York, you have three years to pursue legal action against the other driver. This is referred to as the statute of limitations. If you do not file a claim within this time period, you effectively forfeit your right to sue for compensation. If you think you may want to file a lawsuit, speak to an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. They can provide counsel on your legal options and help you determine how long you should wait before filing your case. It’s often a good idea to wait until you have a full understanding of your injuries, what will be involved in treatment, and how long it will take for you to recover. Filing your claim too early could mean that you end up not getting all of the compensation you deserve.

Getting into a car accident is a frightening experience, but it can be even more distressing when the other person drives away, leaving you to deal with the aftermath. If you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident in Suffolk County and you need to know what your legal options are, call
The Law Offices of Elke E. Mirabella, PC, at 631-769-7999 to speak to a member of our team.

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