In the last decade, hit-and-run accidents have risen by 20%. This means that you or a loved one have a greater chance of being injured and then abandoned by the driver. With this in mind, we want to inform you of the basic laws surrounding these types of accidents in Utah. We cannot give you advice specific to your accident. However, we can give an overview of what laws will affect how you will be compensated for your losses.
When is an accident considered a hit-and-run?
In general, Utah considers two different situations as hit-and-run accidents:
- A driver causes an accident, leaves the scene, and is later identified.
- A car causes an accident, flees the scene, and is never identified. These are known as phantom vehicles.
For example, a driver carelessly ties down something on his vehicle. While driving the object falls off of his vehicle and into the road causing an accident. No one knows who the driver was, but the state still considers it a hit-and-run accident. Utah law requires any driver involved in an accident to stay at the scene until information is exchanged with any other drivers. If the accident caused $1,500 or more in damages, then all drivers must stay until the police are notified. If no one was in the car, such as in a parking lot, then the driver who hit it must leave their contact information. If they fail to stay and is later found, then they will face penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.
Who will cover my medical and other bills?
If the driver is discovered, they will need to pay for your bills with their insurance policy. However, drivers often leave the scene of an accident they caused because they do not have insurance. In this case, or when the driver who caused the accident cannot be found, the state considers them an uninsured driver. If this happens, you can seek compensation for your bills from your own insurance company using your uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage can also apply if you are riding a bicycle. However, if you do not have this coverage then your insurance amounts may not be enough to cover all your costs.
What evidence can I use?
Your legal claim for compensation is separate from the criminal accusation the driver will face. The state courts have determined that different rules need to be followed in trying to prove that the other driver poorly acted by leaving the scene. The Utah Court of Appeals determined that leaving the scene of the accident cannot be used as evidence. The court felt that this would unfairly bias the jury against the defendant beyond any other value that piece of evidence would provide. However, the court will allow this as evidence under certain exceptions.
- When the defendant’s flight made the plaintiff’s injuries worse;
- When both sides disagree over the facts or there is no eyewitness; or
- When admitting this evidence is necessary to show that the defendant was the driver of the vehicle.
How can I ensure that I am fairly treated?
One of the best ways to make sure that your own insurance company does not take advantage of you after a hit-and-run accident, is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Here at Christensen & Hymas we have ensured that previous clients do not suffer long term from the poor choices of another person. We understand that this can be a difficult time, especially if your own insurance company treats you poorly. Call us at 801-506-0800 (main number), 801-224-2999 (Utah County) or 801-294-9500 (Davis County) for a free consultation so we can help you with your hit-and-run accident.
Photo “Mailbox hit-and-run” copyright by Lars Plougmann.
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