According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, there are nearly 5,000 motorcycle accidents reported throughout the state. Although this number should be shocking, it unfortunately doesn’t include the number of accidents that go unreported, and even worse, many of the offenders of these crashes are never caught.
Hit-and-run accidents, where a driver hits a vehicle, motorcycle or pedestrian and flees the scene of the crime, are a growing problem for North Carolina drivers. And they can be even more devastating for motorcyclists that are much more vulnerable on the roads.
This article discuses some of the laws and duties that apply to hit-and-run accidents in North Carolina, as well as steps you can take if you’re involved or witness a hit-and-run. It’s important to note at the outset, however, that if you or a loved one are involved in a hit-and-run, it’s crucial to have a qualified and experienced attorney on your side as soon as possible.
Duty to Stop Law
As noted above, a hit-and-run accident involves drivers that hit other drivers, motorcyclists or pedestrians, then flee the scene without rendering aid or calling police. The reasons for feeling can vary, from being under the influence, fearing arrest, or perhaps the mere shock of the situation sends them escaping. However, when a vulnerable motorcyclist is struck by a much larger vehicle, it can be a matter of life and death to ensure they are treated immediately after the collision.
Because even minutes can potentially save a life of a motorcyclist that has been stuck, North Carolina imposes a so-called “duty to stop”. Under this law (North Carolina General Statutes § 20-166), any driver who knows or reasonably should know that he or she caused an accident that caused injury or death to another person must stay at the scene until a law enforcement officer arrives, completes an investigation and lets the driver leave.
Drivers that willfully fail to stop in such a circumstance may face a Class H felony if the accident causes death or serious injury, or a Class F felony if other injury results.
Steps to Take After a Hit-and-Run
Hit-and-run accidents are one of the leading causes of automotive death in the state. This is primarily due to the fact that although many people may have survived if they were issued medical care right away, because the offender chooses to flee, this care comes much too late. As such, if you are involved or witness a hit-and-run accident, the first thing you should do is call the police. The sooner you call 911, the better the chance the police will catch the offender, and the quicker medical aid can be provided.
After you have called the authorities, you should then notify your insurance company. You should tell them as soon as possible that you have been involved in a hit and run accident, and that you have sought medical attention. Unfortunately, many insurance companies require that you notify them within a “reasonable time” after the accident, and may deny any claim that they believe was reported too late.
Finally, you should seek medical attention. Although many hit-and-run accidents require immediate care, others require long-term care well after the accident. For the sake of your health and any potential claim in the future, you will want to see your doctor right away and have them examine you to determine if you have any injuries not immediately identified at the crash. If you wait to see your doctor, an insurance company may claim that you were not hurt in the accident, or that your injuries are not as severe as you claim.
Available Legal Options
Due to the nature of hit-and-run accidents, your legal options may vary depending on the circumstances. Because of this, it’s important to consult a qualified attorney as soon as possible after the crash. An attorney can discuss any legal options with you, and act as your representative for the insurance companies immediately afterward.
If the police catch the driver that fled, you will likely be able to pursue compensation for any bodily injury or property damage through their liability insurance. If the driver was violating any law when the crash occurred, such as speeding, driving while intoxicated or driving recklessly, they you may be able to establish that the driver was being negligence per se.
Conversely, if the offender does not have insurance then you may be able to file an uninsured motorist claim. This claim will cover your losses up to your personal insurance policy limits. Additionally, if the police cannot catch the offender, you may also be able to file a hit-and-run accident claim through your uninsured motorist insurance.
Hit-and-run accidents can be extremely stressful and terrifying for those involved. Because of the frequent need for immediate care, it’s vital that you alert the authorities as soon as possible after any accident. Moreover, due to the legal complexities and potential legal options that are available, it’s also important to have an experienced attorney on your side that can help you navigate this legal area and help protect your rights.