Car collisions can not only result in considerable damage to your car, they can also cause serious injuries to you and your passengers. While the right thing for two drivers to do who have been in an accident is to call the authorities and exchange insurance information, sometimes one driver flees the scene of the crime.
They may believe they are at fault, panic, and drive off. Or they may be under the influence and drive away to avoid being caught driving while drunk. No matter the reason, when a driver leaves the scene of an accident before the authorities arrive or insurance information is exchanged, you have what is commonly known as a hit-and-run case.
What a Driver Must Do Immediately After a Collision
Louisiana requires that each driver in a collision stay at the scene, share their identity and render reasonable aid. A driver who flees may face criminal charges on top of whatever liability they may have for the accident itself. Further, if they caused the accident, they’ll likely face stiffer damages than they would have if they stayed.
If you’ve been in a hit-and-run accident, you could stand to receive substantial damages depending on your injuries. Even though the other party has fled, they can often be identified by police investigations, witness descriptions, nearby traffic or business surveillance cameras, or through the efforts of experienced local hit-and-run attorneys.
After the initial shock of the hit-and-run wears off and you receive whatever medical treatment you may need, it’s crucial that you contact an experienced attorney to help sort through Louisiana’s hit-and-run laws options and pursue justice.
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What Should You Do If You’ve Been in a Hit-and-Run?
If you’ve been in a hit-and-run accident in Louisiana, the first thing you should do is pull over into a well-lit area if you can.
If you or your passengers have been seriously injured, or are trapped in a totaled vehicle, focus all of your attention on treating wounds or freeing yourself or others. Then call the police, even if you’ve suffered minimal injuries or vehicle damage.
Ask bystanders for help until professional first responders arrive on the scene.
Gather as Much Information As You Can
Assuming you do not need medical treatment, get as much information as possible about the fleeing driver and their vehicle. Try to record the vehicle, especially their license plate, on your smartphone as it speeds away.
You may ask pedestrians if they caught the driver’s license plate number or ask them to confirm what you think their vehicle may have looked like. Also, ask them to stick around and describe the accident and vehicle to the officers when they arrive on the scene.
Be sure to take pictures of the damages you suffered or injuries your passengers may have suffered. You’ll also want to start filing your insurance claim, which can be done online or over the phone. Make sure to get a copy of the police report and send it and the photos to your insurer to expedite the claims process.
Do Not Chase the Other Driver
One thing you should avoid doing is chasing after the fleeing driver. A driver who flees the scene has engaged in reckless behavior and may put you in further danger once they know they are being pursued. And while you may think your car has only suffered minimal damage, it actually may have been quite severely damaged and unsafe to drive.
Further, you’ll miss the opportunity to talk with potential witnesses and secure their testimony if you also leave the scene of the accident.
Potential Penalties for Hit-and-Run Drivers in Louisiana
The state of Louisiana takes hit-and-run accidents quite seriously. In sum, those convicted of a hit-and-run in which no injuries have been suffered can face a misdemeanor hit-and-run offense, resulting in a fine of up to $500 and a sentence of between ten days and six months in prison.
However, if a passenger or driver is injured in the accident, the fleeing driver will face a felony hit-and-run charge. The penalty increases to a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 10 years in prison. In the most serious hit-and-run cases, the at-fault driver will receive a minimum prison sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of twenty years, if:
- Someone dies or is severely harmed by the collision
- The driver knew that they were at fault
- The driver had a previous record of two DWIs within ten years of the collision, or else a charge of vehicular homicide or vehicular negligent injuring
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Damages You May Be Able to Recover After a Hit-and-Run
As the legal process unfolds, you’ll want to keep track of all expenses related to the accident, as these may be incorporated into the damages you can recover. In Louisiana, victims of hit-and-run drivers may recover damages for:
- Medical treatment and related travel expenses
- Lost wages
- Physical disability
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Vehicle repair costs
We help you keep track of these expenses and add them to the evidence presented against the driver who hit you and ran. We’ll also help you recover repair costs from your insurer if that coverage is available under your policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage is optional in Louisiana, so if you don’t have it or don’t have enough to cover your expenses, we’ll help you work with your insurer to secure as much as possible towards the cost of your repairs.
Get Help After Your Louisiana Hit-and-Run Accident
It’s critical that you contact an expert Louisiana hit-and-run attorney as soon as you’ve finished receiving immediate medical treatment and speaking with police at the scene. Navigating the legal process, compiling evidence, and making relevant decisions can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve suffered ongoing injuries or are dealing with expensive repairs. But our attorneys will be with you every step of the way as we pursue the damages that will make you whole.
Call the legal team at Morris Bart today, and let’s discuss how we can get you the justice you deserve.
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