What Can I Do if I Have Been Injured in a Hit-and-Run Car Accident in New Orleans?
Car accidents lead to physical pain and economic loss, making them especially stressful when another driver causes them. However, drivers with ethical and moral deficiencies who leave the scene of the accident add extra layers of anger and frustration. Accident victims must cope with the physical pain of their injuries and absorb the cost of vehicle repairs and medical treatment costs.
Fortunately, you have some options for recovering damages after a hit-and-run accident in New Orleans. An experienced New Orleans car accident attorney can answer your questions during a free consultation. Until you have the opportunity to meet with a lawyer and discuss your legal options, this guide provides preliminary information on what you can do if you have been injured in a hit-and-run car accident in New Orleans.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Is a Crime in Louisiana
Drivers who leave the scene of an accident face a fine and possible jail time depending on the circumstances and their driving history. When serious physical injuries occur, a hit-and-run conviction carries up to a $5,000 fine and 10 years in prison if drug use or alcohol use contributed to the accident. Hit-and-run drivers who cause severe bodily injury typically must serve a mandatory five years in prison, but they could serve as much as 20 years in prison if they have previous convictions.
Steps to Take After a Hit-and-Run Car Accident in New Orleans
If you are involved in a car accident in New Orleans, and the other driver leaves the scene of the accident, you must first prioritize safety. If possible, move your car out of traffic and call 911 to report the accident. Wait for law enforcement and emergency services to arrive. If you are physically able, take the following actions while waiting for police to arrive:
- Gather contact information from any eyewitnesses who stopped to help you out. If they are unable to remain at the accident scene until the police arrive, you will have their information so an officer can contact them and get statements. Eyewitnesses are crucial in hit-and-run accidents because they provide evidence that supports the criminal case against the driver and your insurance claim.
- Accept medical treatment at the scene of the accident. Even if you only feel a little sore, you must let a physician examine you for common car accident injuries. Some injuries, like traumatic brain injuries, do not immediately show symptoms. Also, soreness and pain in certain areas of the body can indicate more serious issues, such as organ damage or internal bleeding. A physician must document your injuries for you to seek compensation for your injuries in an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
- Take photos of the accident scene with your cell phone. Ensure you have evidence of any property damage to share with the police, the insurance company, and your attorney. You should also take photos of any visible injuries to support your injury claim.
- Contact a New Orleans car accident attorney who can guide you on the best steps to take to recover compensation for the accident and your injuries.
Who Pays for Medical Expenses and Other Damages After a Hit-and-Run?
Accident victims often assume they do not have any way to recoup their losses when a hit-and-run driver causes an accident. This is sometimes true. However, sometimes the police locate the hit-and-run driver based on the evidence they gathered at the scene and discussions with eyewitnesses. You should periodically check in with the policy to ask if they have identified the driver who hit you. If you do not locate the hit-and-run driver, you must rely on your insurance to absorb some or all of your economic losses from the accident.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance and Hit-and-Run Accidents in Louisiana
Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance is add-on coverage that pays benefits when drivers get in an accident with an uninsured motorist. Louisiana does not require drivers to carry UM coverage, but it does require insurance providers to offer UM coverage in insurance packages. Policyholders must explicitly deny UM coverage in writing, so you likely have UM coverage.
Unless explicitly excluded in the language of your insurance policy, UM insurance covers medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages for policyholders who have suffered injuries in a hit-and-run accident. If you immediately report the accident to your insurance carrier, you can likely receive benefits up to your policy limit to recover some or all of your losses.
Bringing a Lawsuit Against the Hit-and-Run Driver
If you are fortunate enough that the police locate the hit-and-run driver who caused your accident, you have some other options. First, you can file an insurance claim with the driver’s insurance carrier to receive compensation under their liability coverage. However, the lack of insurance is one common reason drivers leave the scene of an accident. It’s possible the driver who left the scene of the accident truly does not have insurance. In this situation, you are once again left to rely on your UM coverage.
If the driver is uninsured or your damages exceed his or her insurance policy limits, you can also bring a personal injury lawsuit against the driver. If a court rules in your favor, you could be awarded damages for current and future medical treatment costs, current and future lost wages, pain, and suffering, and other non-economic damages.
Keep in mind that hit-and-run drivers, especially those who do not have insurance, likely have little if any financial resources to pay an award. If they did, they would likely have insurance. It’s imperative to let an attorney help you in these situations to ensure you have the best chance to prevail in an insurance claim and/or lawsuit and collect any compensation you are awarded.
Get the Legal Help You Need from a New Orleans Car Accident Lawyer
It’s common for hit-and-run accident victims to go it alone with their insurance company after a hit-and-run accident. They feel they can handle filling out an insurance claim and communicating with their insurance company and mistakenly assume their insurance provider is on their side. This tragic mistake sometimes causes accident victims to miss out on receiving the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
Insurance companies are worried about their bottom line, not their policyholders. It’s crucial that you treat an uninsured motorist insurance claim from a hit-and-run accident the same as you would treat a claim you filed with a driver’s insurance carrier. Your insurance company will investigate the hit-and-run accident and do what they can to deny or devalue your claim.
It’s in your best interest to contact an experienced New Orleans car accident attorney who can help you avoid the simple mistakes that could lead to your claim’s denial. The skilled legal team at Charbonnet Law Firm can evaluate your claim and guide you on a path that gives you the best chance of receiving the maximum compensation commensurate with your injuries. Contact us today online or at 504-294-5118 to discuss the details of your hit-and-run accident and learn how we can help.