Two women were sitting outside of a restaurant in Flower Mound last week when a black Kia suddenly jumped the curve and crashed into the women! And as if this weren’t horrible enough, the driver fled the scene.
Because of video camera footage (shown here), the driver was easy to identify. The 46-year-old man finally turned himself into police yesterday.
Let’s hope he gets nailed in the criminal and civil courts. It would only be fair that he serves time, he/his insurance company pays a large civil judgment, he loses his driver’s license, and/or has to pay much higher rates through the high risk Texas Automobile Insurance Plan.
Stories like this — there are hundreds each year in Dallas-Fort Worth — anger me My firm is currently representing clients in four of these cases. In one we just were hired on, my injured client and four men in the other car were taken to JPS Hospital and they walked out the door. In another, a car crashed into my client’s car at a light in Arlington and the at-fault driver and his passenger ran away on foot.
Fleeing drivers are often drunk or uninsured
Hit-and-runs are against the law. Texas has some of the strongest criminal laws in the U.S. Under the Penal Code, they are third degree felonies if they cause serious personal injury and second degree felonies if they cause death. They are are also outlawed in the Transportation Code for purposes of civil court enforcement.
Everyone knows that after an accident, drivers are required to stop, exchange information, and call the police, right?
So why do so many people hit-and-run?
Because the at-fault drivers think the consequences will be worse if they stick around.
Often the driver is drunk, uninsured, unlicensed, illegal, has an active arrest warrant — and sometimes more than one of these.
And a drunk driver has time to sober up before either getting away or later turning himself in. He may escape a DWI, but he can’t avoid the penalties now that Texas lawmakers partially closed this penalty gap in 2013 by making fleeing an accident that causes death a second-degree felony with the same potential sentence as a DWI.
Drivers might think it’s worth the chance that they won’t ever get caught. Fat chance. Cameras are everywhere — on storefronts, traffic signals, parking lots and everybody’s cell phone. The fleeing driver is very likely to appear on a video, which the police use to capture him and which I can use to hold him liable for damages.
I just obtained my client’s entire policy limits this week in one of these hit-and-run cases.
Recovering damages in a hit-and-run accident
Getting in an car accident is always a terrible experience. And when the negligent driver flees, you not only face injuries and car damage, but you also are left with a serious financial mess. Who will pay for your medical bills, your lost wages, and your vehicle repair? What if you have to have surgery and are disabled?
I have successfully handled many hit-and-run crashes in the last 36 years. This is what I do to help injured victims.
My investigator and I immediately conduct a thorough search to locate the missing driver. The power of the internet and social media has made this job much easier.
If we can find him or her, we file a claim on their liability insurance policy and make a nonnegotiable demand that his entire policy limit be paid, and if is not, I file suit. I’ve seen juries eager to award full compensatory damages and punitive damages against these miscreants.
In addition, I pursue the maximum compensation under my client’s insurance policies, which might include medical payments, personal injury protection, collision, rental, and uninsured motorist coverage. A nonexistent driver is considered “uninsured” so I can recover damages from his or her policy. The payment is often more generous than what the subprime insurance company for the low life who crashed into would have paid, had he even had insurance. I file suit if and when necessary to get my client the compensation he or she deserves.
Even if my client carries health insurance, the skyrocketing costs of medical care can quickly deplete the compensation he receives. So I also negotiate with the hospital, emergency room physicians, doctors, physical therapists and other health care professionals and entities that treated him for his accident injuries.
His health insurance company may have paid a portion of his medical bills so I challenge and attempt to slash its subrogation (reimbursement) lien.
This takes a lot of effort but is worth it, as I am often able to reduce medical bills substantially so that my client’s damages award goes into his pocket, not all to his doctors’. By doing this, I can often save my clients many thousands of dollars.
If you have been involved in a automobile collision caused by any negligent driver, you would be smart to consult an injury lawyer before you call the insurance company for the at-fault driver and before you sign any legal documents.
I can discuss the facts of your case and advise you of your options for recovery at a free consultation at my Dallas-Fort Worth law office.
Texas civil statutes governing hit-and-run crashes:
Texas Transportation Code Sections
550.021. ACCIDENT INVOLVING PERSONAL INJURY OR DEATH.
(a) The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident that results or is reasonably likely to result in injury to or death of a person shall:
(1) immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible;
(2) immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident;
(3) immediately determine whether a person is involved in the accident, and if a person is involved in the accident, whether that person requires aid; and
(4) remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 550.023.
(b) An operator of a vehicle required to stop the vehicle by Subsection (a) shall do so without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
(c) A person commits an offense if the person does not stop or does not comply with the requirements of this section. An offense under this section:
(1) involving an accident resulting in:
(A) death of a person is a felony of the second degree; or
(B) serious bodily injury, as defined by Section 1.07Penal Code, to a person is a felony of the third degree; and
(2) involving an accident resulting in injury to which Subdivision (1) does not apply is punishable by:
(A) imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for not more than five years or confinement in the county jail for not more than one year;
(B) a fine not to exceed $5,000; or
(C) both the fine and the imprisonment or confinement.
550.022. ACCIDENT INVOLVING DAMAGE TO VEHICLE.
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by a person shall:
(1) immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close as possible to the scene of the accident without obstructing traffic more than is necessary;
(2) immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident; and
(3) remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 550.023.
(b) If an accident occurs on a main lane, ramp, shoulder, median, or adjacent area of a freeway in a metropolitan area and each vehicle involved can be normally and safely driven, each operator shall move the operator’s vehicle as soon as possible to a designated accident investigation site, if available, a location on the frontage road, the nearest suitable cross street, or other suitable location to complete the requirements of Section 550.023 and minimize interference with freeway traffic.
(c) A person commits an offense if the person does not stop or does not comply with the requirements of Subsection (a). An offense under this subsection is:
(1) a Class C misdemeanor, if the damage to all vehicles is less than $200; or
(2) a Class B misdemeanor, if the damage to all vehicles is $200 or more.
(c-1) A person commits an offense if the person does not comply with the requirements of Subsection (b). An offense under this subsection is a Class C misdemeanor.
(d) In this section, a vehicle can be normally and safely driven only if the vehicle:
(1) does not require towing; and
(2) can be operated under its own power and in its usual manner, without additional damage or hazard to the vehicle, other traffic, or the roadway.
550.023. DUTY TO GIVE INFORMATION AND RENDER AID.
The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury or death of a person or damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by a person shall:
(1) give the operator’s name and address, the registration number of the vehicle the operator was driving, and the name of the operator’s motor vehicle liability insurer to any person injured or the operator or occupant of or person attending a vehicle involved in the collision;
(2) if requested and available, show the operator’s driver’s license to a person described by Subdivision (1); and
(3) provide any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements for transporting the person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if the injured person requests the transportation.