Any car accident can be a traumatic experience, but even more so when after the confusion of a crash you find that the other driver is nowhere to be found. After an accident in Louisiana, every driver involved has a duty to stop and render aid if necessary. A hit-and-run can hardly be called an accident anymore because the other party intentionally decided that escaping consequences were more important than your safety.
A hit-and-run makes any car accident worse, particularly one that is serious. In the most serious of accidents, one driver fleeing the scene with no regard to the potential medical needs of the other party could have deadly consequences. Even in cases where there is no injury, by leaving, the driver is disrupting the scene of the crash and damaging evidence if nothing else.
What Is the Penalty for a Hit-and-Run in Louisiana?
The penalty for hit-and-run varies based on the severity of the accident and several factors that can contribute to an increased sentence. It should be noted, however, that even if a personal injury civil claim exists from the accident, hit-and-run is a separate criminal matter and will be prosecuted by the state rather than your personal injury attorney.
In a hit-and-run incident where the accident caused no serious bodily harm or the urgent need for medical care, the Louisiana Revised Statutes outline three options for the punishment of these less severe violations:
- Imprisoned – not more than 6 months
- Fined – not more than $500
- Both of the above
A hit-and-run is considered a felony when it causes serious bodily harm or injury and fleeing the scene seriously endangered the health of another. To be considered a felony hit-and-run under Louisiana law, the driver must have known that they were in or caused an accident. They also reasonably should know that it was likely that death or serious injury was caused by the accident.
The punishments the law lays out for these types of hit-and-runs are:
- Imprisoned- not more than 10 years
- Fined- not more than $5000
- Both of the above
Other Circumstances that Could Affect the Punishment for a Hit-and-Run
The law describes occasions in which both fines and imprisonment should be used in sentencing hit-and-run drivers, such as when drugs and alcohol contributed to the accident or for offenders who have a history of hit-and-run or vehicular homicide. Though the severity of sentencing is capped on criminal hit-and-run punishments, if failing to stop and lend aid contributed to serious injury or even death an offender could still potentially be held accountable in civil court for the negligence that contributed to that.
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Can a Hit-and-Run Affect My Car Accident Claim?
If you’re involved in a personal injury claim or lawsuit in a hit-and-run case, the hit-and-run can definitely have some effects on your case. Even though an auto accident claim is a civil matter and hit-and-run is criminal, the hit-and-run is a key part of the circumstances of the accident. Particularly in serious accidents, you may have been denied prompt access to emergency medical assistance due to the other driver neglecting their duty to stop.
Negligence and Fault
A hit-and-run accident can also make it much easier for you and your attorney to prove negligence and negotiate a good settlement since there’s already proof that the other driver broke one set of laws at the scene. This often can increase the settlement that the insurance company or the other driver is willing to offer.
In Louisiana, two drivers can both contribute to an accident with negligent actions. Under the doctrine of comparative fault, a plaintiff’s compensation would be reduced by their percentage of responsibility for the accident. In a hit-and-run, even if you were partially responsible for the accident itself, you weren’t in any way responsible for any damages you suffered as a result of the other driver fleeing.
In addition to economic and non-economic damages from your car accident lawsuit, you can also potentially be awarded punitive damages in cases like a hit-and-run. Punitive damages are awards given solely as a punishment to deter particularly reckless behavior. This is usually only used in situations where someone willfully and recklessly placed others in danger without reason, but for a hit-and-run, that’s often exactly what happens.
How an Attorney Can Help with Your Hit-and-Run Accident
While the State of Louisiana will take the driver to court over fleeing the scene, your car accident is a lot more complicated after a driver has fled the scene. Without exchanging information, it may be difficult to get the ball rolling on a claim. If you were injured and their leaving led to more serious complications than you would have suffered otherwise, you now have two different incidents with separate determinations of fault.
After you’ve been in an accident, you need to recover. An attorney who’s experienced in hit-and-run cases can help take a lot of the burden of pursuing compensation off of you, while also ensuring that you have the best chance to get a fair settlement or court award.
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Morris Bart Can Help with Your Hit-and-Run Case in Louisiana
Here at Morris Bart, our team specializes in both personal injury and auto accident law, which are both areas of key importance in hit-and-run cases. We have over 40 years of experience helping our clients seek the compensation that they deserve. To see how we could help with your case, contact us for a free case evaluation today.
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