Why Do I Need to Hire a Hit and Run Accident Attorney?

June 7, 2023 | Ed Bernstein
Why Do I Need to Hire a Hit and Run Accident Attorney?

No one is ever prepared for a hit-and-run accident and everything this ordeal entails, which can leave you feeling vulnerable, helpless, and unsure what to do next. Hit-and-run car accidents are uniquely difficult for victims because they face a real possibility of shouldering the financial burden of medical bills, vehicle repairs, and other expenses resulting from the crash, even though someone else was liable.

If you're in this incredibly unfair situation, would hiring a lawyer make a difference?

Most people would benefit from having an attorney representing them after a serious car accident, but having legal help becomes even more critical in cases where the at-fault party flees their responsibilities.

Hit-and-run accident victims often feel that someone in their position has very few options for recovering compensation, but that's not necessarily true, whether or not you can find the identity of the person who hit you. A car accident attorney familiar with the nuances of these accidents can stand up for you and explore all available avenues for getting justice.

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Why Do Hit-and-run Accidents Happen?

Lawyer for Car Accident in Las Vegas

Nevada law is very clear on drivers' obligations after being involved in a collision: they have to stop, "render aid" to anyone injured, provide their insurance information, and wait for the police. Violating these rules is a potentially-criminal offense, but some North Las Vegas drivers will still choose to flee the scene after a serious crash. Some of the common reasons and scenarios include:

Fear of DUI Charges

A significant portion of the hit-and-run incidents in North Las Vegas happened because the fleeing driver was under the influence of either drugs or alcohol and left to avoid a potential DUI charge. Sometimes, they plan to wait for the intoxicants to leave their system before turning themselves in to the police or to avoid responsibility altogether and never be identified.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists

Nevada law mandates all drivers to carry minimum liability car insurance. Drivers caught operating a vehicle without proper coverage will face hefty fines, the possibility of having their vehicle impounded and being personally financially liable for any damages they've caused, which is motivation to try dodging responsibility after a crash.

The standard procedure after a serious car accident is for police officers to be called to the scene to run background checks on everyone involved. Drivers with issues like a suspended driver's license, being on parole or probation, immigration-related concerns, and other legal complications might try to avoid police scrutiny so they don't get arrested.

Regardless of their exact reason, the underlying motivation for leaving the scene of an accident without identifying yourself and cooperating with police is the driver's desire to avoid being held accountable and carelessness for the well-being of anyone else affected.

One of the main factors determining the right course of action after a hit-and-run accident is finding the guilty party. Police officers have different resources to investigate and track down the at-fault driver. If you have an attorney handling your claim, they can conduct an independent investigation.

One advantage of having your legal team on the case is that they can devote more time to investigating your incident than a law enforcement agency could.

Some of the most common ways to find out the identity of an at-fault driver include:

  • Interviewing any witnesses to the crash who can provide descriptions of the vehicle and may even have recorded the license plate number
  • Surveillance footage from nearby homes and businesses, traffic cameras, or dash cams that captured the crash and may have identifying information
  • Local body shops call the police to report suspicious damage on a vehicle that was brought to them, which does happen and can potentially solve these types of cases

If the investigation manages to unearth the hit-and-run driver's identity, there may be misdemeanor or felony charges against them, depending on the seriousness of the accident.

However, these criminal proceedings are completely separate from the legal avenues victims would use to pursue financial compensation for their injuries from the accident, which is a civil process.

The main options are either to file a claim against the at-fault party's insurance policy or to pursue a personal injury lawsuit directly against the driver.

Filing an Insurance Claim

The minimum liability coverage required to drive in Nevada is $25,000 for bodily harm to one person, $50,000 for bodily harm to multiple people, and another $20,000 for property damage.

If the at-fault party does have adequate insurance, victims of their hit-and-run would be entitled to file a claim under that policy to get reimbursed up to the plan's coverage limits.

This process involves submitting detailed proof of all financial losses that resulted directly from the crash, such as medical bills, estimates for vehicle repairs, and evidence of lost income due to having to miss work.

Regardless of the evidence you provide or even the egregious circumstances that may have led to the accident, be prepared for the hit-and-run driver's insurance company to find excuses to minimize your damages and offer a reduced payout. With an experienced lawyer handling your claim and negotiating on your behalf, you can walk away with the resources you'll need to recover from this harrowing experience.

Suing the Driver In Civil Court

If the at-fault driver's liability coverage isn't enough to fully compensate for your losses, hit-and-run victims can escalate their car accident claim to a formal personal injury lawsuit. However, suing someone in civil court is complex, expensive, and lengthy. It's not a step your lawyer would advise you to take without first being sure it's worth the effort.

Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is most appropriate when the damages caused by the accident are significant, and the at-fault party has the financial assets available to cover more of your damages than their insurance policy alone could provide.

One example that meets both of these conditions would be cases where the employee of a large business caused a hit-and-run accident during their work, and the victim's injuries were serious enough to have long-term consequences for their quality of life.

If you decide to take this option, one of the advantages of filing a lawsuit is pursuing a much wider range of damages than is available from liability insurance, which is only designed to reimburse economic expenses.

Nevada courts can also award compensation for the intangible, non-economic costs resulting from the at-fault party's negligent behavior, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In some cases, the recklessness of fleeing the scene after a serious accident might also reach the legal standard for punitive damages. This is a category of damages only awarded to claimants in a personal injury case when the court wants to punish extremely irresponsible behavior.

When you can't locate the driver who hit you, even after a thorough investigation, that doesn't mean all is lost. Your lawyer can explore other avenues for getting financial relief for your damages, mainly by turning to your insurance policies.

The guidance of an experienced hit-and-run attorney is invaluable in helping victims navigate each alternative as effectively as possible. The main options for getting compensation if you're not able to identify the at-fault driver include the following:

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Nevada insurance companies are required by law to include uninsured motorist coverage as a default component of every policy, although drivers can opt out by making a request. This crucial protection is designed to kick in after an accident where the at-fault driver either doesn't have insurance or can't be found, such as in a hit-and-run scenario.

Uninsured motorist coverage can compensate you for injuries and property damage even if you weren't driving during the accident, such as if you were a passenger, pedestrian, or cyclist. Having an uninsured motorist policy can be a real lifeline for victims of a hit-and-run accident. However, insurers are often reluctant to pay out these types of claims, so it helps to have a lawyer advocating for you.

Collision Coverage

A minimum of $5,000 in collision coverage is mandatory for all car insurance plans in Nevada, specifically for repairing or replacing your vehicle after an accident. Collision coverage is a great resource for hit-and-run accident victims because it's available regardless of who was at fault. However, you'll have to pay a deductible before accessing these funds.

Medical Payments Coverage

Medical Payments, or MedPay, is an optional but incredibly valuable type of coverage that can cover medical costs related to an accident. Again, these policies are paid out regardless of who was at fault. MedPay is not specifically designed for hit-and-run victims but can provide a significant amount of help with medical expenses up to the limits in your policy.

Why Should You Hire a Lawyer After a Hit and Run Accident?

While being in a car accident is always a difficult experience, victims of a hit-and-run driver face a situation that's exponentially more stressful, complicated, and financially devastating. Dealing with these challenges while also trying to recover from an accident's physical and emotional toll is more than most people can handle, especially without help.

A skilled car accident lawyer can help you identify all potential sources for compensation, handle all the paperwork, and provide the strategic support you'll need to make the best decisions for your specific situation. Here are some of the ways an attorney can advocate for victims of a hit-and-run driver:

Help Find the Identity of the Driver

North Las Vegas police officers do try to find drivers that illegally flee from an accident, but having your own lawyer investigate can also expedite this process and increase the possibility of tracking this person down. An experienced hit-and-run lawyer would have access to other resources and professional connections, like private investigators, that can uncover potential leads law enforcement would have otherwise missed.

There are a million and one different factors to navigate all the different scenarios for getting compensation after these accidents, such as meeting Nevada's statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim or understanding the fine print of your insurance plan and all applicable policies. Skilled lawyers can use their in-depth knowledge and expertise to help you make informed decisions, meet all procedural rules and prevent mistakes or missed opportunities that can affect the value of your claim.

Help You Maximize the Compensation You Can Recover

A skilled attorney could leverage their negotiation skills and legal expertise to recover more compensation than if you handled the process alone or tried to deal with insurance companies directly.

This is the main reason to hire a lawyer after any car accident. Still, it's especially true in cases with all the added complications of a hit-and-run driver, where you may face more barriers to covering your damages.

After a hit-and-run accident, knowing how to navigate the legal system effectively can help you make the best choices in a very bad situation and recover fair compensation.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, hiring a personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas to answer your questions, help you make informed decisions, and handle all the legal aspects of the case for you can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

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Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.