Under Arizona law, you are required to remain at the scene of a car accident or to return as soon as possible and to provide your name, address, registration, and license information to the other driver or to authorities. If you fail to do so, this is defined as a hit and run. Depending on the severity and details of the accident, if a driver leaves the scene, he or she can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
Types of Hit and Run Accidents
The legal and financial liabilities of an accident vary based on the nature and details of the incident. If there is only minor property damage due to a collision, that is much less serious than if the damage is severe or if the accident results in someone being hurt or killed.
The most severe offense occurs when a driver leaves the scene of an accident that involves injury or death. This is a felony in Arizona. In the case of injury, the driver is required to stop and also try to help the injured party, coordinate medical assistance or transportation, and notify the authorities.
A police officer is required to file an official report within 24 hours. The report must include information on the time, date, and location of the hit and run accident. The report will provide a description of the facts of the accident along with a basic diagram of where and how it occurred, and complete information about all involved parties and witnesses.
If only minor injury results, any driver who fails to stop or comply with the other legal requirements is guilty of a class 5 felony in Arizona. If serious injury or death occurs as a result of an accident, failing to stop and comply with the law is a class 3 felony. If the fleeing driver caused the accident, however, it is considered a class 2 felony to leave the scene.
Misdemeanor Leaving the Scene of an Accident
There are several situations in which leaving the scene of an accident or refusing to comply with the law result in a misdemeanor. This type of accident doesn’t necessarily have to involve another driver.
Non-Vehicle Property Damage
If a driver hits a sign, a fence, or other non-vehicle property, he or she is required to attempt to locate and notify the property owner, give details of the damage, and provide contact information. Failure to do so results in a class 3 misdemeanor in Arizona. This type of accident is considered a hit and run if the driver doesn’t comply with these requirements.
Damage to a Parked Car
Drivers who collide with a parked car and cause damage are required to attempt to locate the owner of the damaged vehicle. If they cannot do so, they must leave a conspicuous note on the other vehicle with their name and address. Failure to do so is a class 3 misdemeanor in Arizona.
Accident With No Injuries
If a driver is involved in an accident that involves only damage and no injuries, he or she is required to remain at the scene, the same as if someone had been hurt.
Arizona law requires that drivers stop and exchange insurance and contact information. Leaving the scene of an accident even when there are no injuries involved is a class 2 misdemeanor.
Steps To Take If You’ve Been Involved in a Hit and Run Accident
What should you do if you’ve been in an accident and the other driver doesn’t stop? These collisions are all too common in Arizona. In 2020 alone, over 13,500 accidents occurred where the driver fled the scene. If you are the victim of a hit and run, follow these three steps:
1. Contact the Authorities
Arizona Department of Transportation recommends that you call 911 or the local highway patrol as soon as you are able. Ideally, you want the police to create an accident report with as much information as possible, preferably while all the details of the accident are still visible.
If there are witnesses, request that they remain at the scene until the police arrive. If they can’t stay, ask for their contact information.
2. Get Medical Attention
After the shock of a vehicle accident, you may have injuries that you won’t feel right away. Adrenaline can mask pain and injury. If you are hurt in any way, seek medical treatment and be sure to make a clear record of it.
You may find that days, weeks, or even months after a hit and run, you will experience side effects that you were unaware of at the time of the accident. In the case an injury resulting from the accident is detected later, the statute of limitations on filing a claim is extended. Rather than counting from the date of the accident, the deadline is calculated starting from the date on which the injury became known.
3. Seek Legal Assistance
If a driver hits you and then flees the scene, who pays for the damage to your car? How will your medical expenses be covered? Unfortunately, dealing even with your own insurance company in the event of a hit and run accident can be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to recover from your injuries.
A legal professional will be able to handle research and negotiations on your behalf while you are healing. A personal injury attorney can help you during this trying time.
Ways To Recover Losses After an Accident
Normally when you’re involved in an accident, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will cover the ensuing expenses for vehicle damage and medical care. However, when drivers flee the scene, it can be difficult or impossible to track them down and hold them responsible.
Finding the Driver Who Fled
Law enforcement will pursue a hit and run driver. Just because a driver fled the scene doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she has gotten away with causing the accident.
The overwhelming majority of accidents in Arizona happen in an urban setting, so there is often footage from local businesses’ security systems and traffic cameras nearby as well as human witnesses who capture information on the car that left the scene.
A violent accident that caused damage and injury to you has probably done noticeable damage to the other car as well. A driver who fled the scene of an accident stands a good chance of being identified and apprehended.
If the driver is caught and has insurance, then you would pursue a settlement with the driver’s insurance company. This is the best-case scenario for a hit and run.
Alternatively, if the motorist is caught but had no insurance, you could file suit against the driver as an individual. Unfortunately, this can be a tough way to recover losses. Most people who neglect to carry insurance have few assets.
Statistics show that many people who flee the scene of a car accident are not driving legally. They may be unlicensed or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and a high percentage of them flee because they have no insurance. Many do not have the financial means to cover the damages caused by an accident.
If the car involved in the accident belongs to someone other than the driver, it is sometimes possible to sue the owner of the vehicle.
Negotiating an Insurance Settlement
If you are unable to recover damages from the other driver, you will next turn to your own insurance company. You will have better results if you carry uninsured motorist coverage. It isn’t mandatory in Arizona to have this insurance, but it’s highly recommended and it’s very helpful in the case that you are a victim of a hit and run.
Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
In Arizona, you have two years to file a personal injury claim resulting from a car accident. Arizona is an at-fault state, meaning that the person who caused the accident is liable for the damages that result.
As soon as you can physically manage it, you should begin the claims process. It can sometimes be a lengthy and complex journey to recover your losses. You will have expenses due to the accident, for your vehicle as well as for any injuries you’ve sustained, and the sooner you begin to pursue compensation, the sooner they can be paid off.
Experienced Legal Help To Secure Compensation
A hit and run accident is a traumatic event. Even if you are not severely injured, you will be dealing with the incident for a long time after the actual collision.
Law enforcement will need to determine all the details of the accident, and you will have insurance paperwork and medical expenses in addition to having your vehicle replaced or repaired, all while you’re recovering physically. It’s chaotic at best.
A good attorney can make a world of difference at this juncture. Insurance companies have lawyers who are experts at reducing claims. You need a professional in your corner as well. Having your own attorney levels the playing field.
Familiarity With the Process
Attorneys who specialize in car accidents know how to handle a hit and run. They are familiar with every step of the process to recover your losses. It’s critical to know who is liable for damages and how to pursue compensation from the various parties involved. A personal injury lawyer knows how to navigate these complex issues.
Your attorney will step in and negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf and will ensure that your claim is properly handled from start to finish.
Knowing the Laws
Personal injury attorneys know the laws in Arizona and will make sure that your legal rights are protected. If your case ends up in court, they will represent you and fight for your interests. The defending party will have an attorney in court; you will also need someone who knows how to argue the law and the facts of the case.
Most hit and run claims in Arizona don’t end up in court. An agreeable settlement can usually be reached without this kind of legal battle. Almost invariably, you will obtain a higher settlement offer and more compensation with an experienced attorney than you would on your own.
Without an attorney, only about half of personal injury victims successfully settle their cases and recover payment, compared to over 90% of people who work with an attorney.
Insurance companies will often try to settle quickly and cheaply and may discourage you from hiring legal assistance. These early offers are rarely enough to cover your real losses. Remember that some attorneys work for insurance companies; their job is to minimize claims and settle for as little as possible.
One of the biggest advantages of having an attorney handle your hit and run case is time. A personal injury attorney will keep the process moving along. Insurance companies will delay if they can; they are in no hurry to pay claims, and they are adept at dragging out the process with red tape.
When you are injured or have to deal with a damaged vehicle or both, you are eager to solve these problems, get the bills paid, and get your life back on track. Your attorney knows how to cut through the delays and avoid a potential mire of paperwork.
In Arizona, insurance companies are allowed 40 days to settle a claim. If possible, however, they’ll stretch out the negotiation and settlement process for months or even years. Your attorney will start the 40-day clock and hold the insurance company to the legal timeline.
Hit and Run Attorneys in Maricopa County
How do you find the best legal help if you’ve been involved in an accident with a motorist who fled the scene? Look for a local attorney with experience in personal injury law.
At MDK Law Group, we specialize in car accidents. We will stand up for your rights, pursue a fair settlement for you, or take your case to court if necessary. We have successfully secured jury verdicts and significant settlements for our clients and we will fight for the best outcome and maximum compensation for your case.
If you’ve been involved in a hit and run accident from Avondale to Queen Creek, Buckeye or Tolleson, get in touch with us today. We can help you recover your losses.