By: Karen Piso Nadeau, Esquire and Leslie S. Harkavy, Esquire
A hit and run accident occurs when a driver responsible for causing the accident flees the scene of the crash. In Massachusetts, if you are a driver in an accident, the law requires you to stop and exchange information with the other operator, party involved, or owner of damaged property. It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident.
Hit and run accidents are common and have been on the rise. In Massachusetts in October alone, there have been several hit and run accidents occurring in Everett, Stoneham, and Methuen. In all three, the driver fleeing the scene was eventually identified.
On the morning of October 2, 2019, a motorcyclist was struck and killed in a hit and run crash on Broadway in Everett, Massachusetts, according to WCVB 5 News. A Massachusetts State Police reconstruction team assisted Everett Police after the crash. A vehicle, believed to be involved was impounded by police. The driver struck the motorcycle with his vehicle from behind knocking the man off his bike, leaving the 59-year-old Navy veteran dead. An Everett, Massachusetts , man was criminally charged.
On Sunday October 13, 2019, four children were hit by a car in Stoneham, Massachusetts, around 6:30 pm when they were standing with their bikes. Stoneham Police said the driver fled with the children’s bicycles lodged underneath the tire. All four children were treated by emergency services at the scene, and two were taken to local hospitals according to CBS News. The incident was caught on surveillance video. Investigators identified the owner of the vehicle involved in the hit and run as a Burlington woman according to NBC news. Luckily, the injuries did not appear to be serious for these four children.
On October 14, 2019, a man was in the street in Methuen while a tow truck was delivering a vehicle to his home according to a woman who lived with him who spoke with NBC 10 Boston. The man was struck by a 16-year-old boy who fled the scene. This crash on Jackson Street left a 57-year-old man dead. Police announced a suspect was in custody, a 16-year-old boy from Lawrence. He has been charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment resulting in death, leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury, collision causing death, unlicensed operation and two counts of witness interference/intimidation. Police also said he was speeding. According to NBC 10 Boston, the car involved was found and authorities determined that the teen took the car from its owner’s home later bringing it back with front end damage. The driver and the car’s owner know each other according to police. “This was a tragedy that was entirely avoidable,” Methuen Police Chief said in a statement.
What are some of the main reasons drivers flee the scene of accidents?
-They are uninsured and or unlicensed
-They are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
-They claim no knowledge of the crash
-They think it is too trivial to report
-They are worried their insurance will go up
-They fear the police/have other unrelated criminal charges
-Other traffic violations
-Being an undocumented alien
A Belgian study by the Belgian Road Safety Institute says, “It’s a split-second decision…That’s why more hit-and-run accidents take place in poor lighting conditions, on more deserted roads or when no one else is around.”
One of the most frequent stories police hear is, “I thought I hit a deer.”
Getting Compensated for Injuries In a Hit and Run Accident
Victims of a hit and run accident are often worried about how they can be compensated for their injuries. This depends upon the accident events and whether the operator who fled the scene of the accident is later identified.
If the operator who fled the scene is ultimately identified, then the injured party is in a position to pursue a bodily injury claim against the driver’s motor vehicle insurance company. In the Everett, Stoneham, and Methuen accidents, all three drivers who fled the scenes were identified. This allows the injured parties or in the case of the wrongful deaths, the surviving family members, to pursue claims against the hit and run drivers’ motor vehicle insurance companies if the driver has insurance in place.
With the unlicensed 16 year old in the Methuen accident, the insurance determination is much more complicated and will require a legal analysis of the facts involving this unlicensed 16 year old driving. Did he have permission to use the car that evening or did he steal the car? Did his parents know he was driving unlicensed? Did the owner of the vehicle allow him to drive the vehicle previously? These are just a few of the many questions that will need to be answered to determine if there is any insurance available to cover this 16 year old’s mistake that night that took the life of a man.
The availability of surveillance videos, cell phone videos and photographs have helped police and other investigators identify the responsible party who fled the scene. This helps injured parties pursue the compensation they deserve from the insurance company that covers the hit and run driver. But what about the cases where the hit and run driver can’t be identified? In the cases where the hit and run driver is never found, the injured party may pursue a claim through his or her own insurance company if they have uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage provides insurance coverage to compensate an injured individual who was hurt in an accident caused by a hit and run operator. The injured party may be a pedestrian, a bicyclist, a motorcyclist or driver or passenger in a vehicle. If the injured party does not have his own motor vehicle insurance, the injured party may have a right to pursue an uninsured motorist claim through a household member’s policy.
In Massachusetts, the standard motor vehicle insurance policy requires all autos to carry a minimum insurance limit of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per car accident for underinsured and uninsured benefits. Uninsured motorist benefits provides coverage when you or a household member is injured in an accident and the responsible party (the hit and run driver) cannot be identified or does not have insurance.
As discussed in a prior blog about protecting you and your family members with adequate insurance coverage, we encourage everyone to check their auto policies or contact their insurance agent to determine if you have the necessary insurance. We have represented many individuals and families where this coverage provided the safety net they needed to lessen the financial hardship. Yes, there will be an increased premium with additional coverage, but it may be worth it. One important note here is that you cannot carry more uninsured benefits than bodily injury coverage on your policy.
The injured party also can pursue the driver who fled the scene for compensation. This is often seen as a last resort when a determination is made that insurance is not available to cover the loss. Unfortunately, collecting compensation from a hit and driver is no easy task and in too many cases, the victim never recovers any money from the fleeing driver.
Victims of hit and run accidents are often faced with uncertainty and confusion about their legal rights to obtain the compensation they deserve. As a victim of a hit and run accident, make sure everything is done to protect your interests. The lawyers at Nadeau Harkavy LLC help victims of hit and run accidents and their families recover damages for their losses in serious injury and wrongful death cases. If you have any questions about your legal rights relating to a hit and run accident, wrongful death or other accident, feel free to contact an attorney at Nadeau Harkavy LLC for a free consult today at 617-674-7640. We handle cases across Massachusetts.