Any kind of accident involving vehicles can be terrifying and frustrating, not least because of the severity of injuries they can cause. But hit-and-run accidents can be even more frustrating. If you’ve been injured or your vehicle damaged in a hit-and-run accident, here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Hit-and-Run Accident?
A hit-and-run accident is exactly what it sounds like. One driver causes an accident that causes damage to the other vehicle and potentially injures the other driver. The right (and legally required) thing for the first driver to do is stop and see if the other driver needs medical attention, then exchange names and insurance information to begin the claims process. In a hit-and-run, however, the driver who caused the accident does not stop but flees the scene.
Is It Illegal to be a Hit-and-Run Driver in Mississippi?
Yes. A hit-and-run is usually considered a misdemeanor. If someone is convicted of hit-and-run, that can lead to a jail sentence of between 30 days and one year, as well as fines of $100-5,000.
However, if the accident caused another person to be badly injured or disfigured or led to their death, the hit-and-run can become a felony crime. The consequences for being convicted of a felony hit-and-run are much more severe. The convicted driver can end up in prison between five and twenty years, face fines of $1,000-10,000, and have their license revoked.
Is There a Statute of Limitations to File Claims for a Hit-and-Run Accident?
In Mississippi, the injured party has three years from the accident date to file for damages. However, if the identity of the hit-and-run driver isn’t known right away, the courts may be willing to extend that statute.
Why Do Some Drivers Flee the Scene After They Cause an Accident?
There are many reasons some drivers flee the scene rather than stay.
Fear. Being in a traffic accident can be terrifying. Someone’s instincts might tell them to leave immediately before they’re blamed for something. It may be an irrational fear, but it could also be fear based on some legitimate concerns:
- The driver has an outstanding warrant for another crime.
- The driver either didn’t have a license yet or was driving with a suspended license.
- The driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) and doesn’t want to be charged with a DUI.
- The driver was an immigrant and worried about deportation.
- The driver was uninsured and worried about paying for the accident.
- The driver is driving a vehicle they don’t own, either without permission or because they stole it.
- The driver is moving illegal goods or drugs.
What Happens if the Hit-and-Run Driver Isn’t Found?
If you have uninsured motorist insurance as part of your auto insurance policy, that will cover damages for both the vehicle and any bodily injury when you’re a hit-and-run victim. However, Mississippi doesn’t require vehicle owners to carry uninsured motorist coverage. State law does require insurance companies to provide it in every bid and contract. But the policyholder has the right to opt out of that part of the policy by doing so in writing. Because the ramifications of being in an accident with either an uninsured motorist or a hit-and-run driver who’s never identified are severe, it’s highly recommended that vehicle owners carry this type of insurance.
Another reason to have the coverage is something called stacking. If you own two vehicles and accept the uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, you have a total of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.
While having this coverage is highly recommended, there are situations when it’s not ideal. For assistance in understanding this coverage or handling a hit-and-run if you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, it’s highly recommended to work with an experienced personal injury attorney.
What Should I Do if I Was Injured in a Hit-and-Run Accident in Mississippi?
As soon as the accident happens (if you’re physically able) and the other driver leaves, call 911 to file a police report. If you’re able to note anything about the fleeing driver–the make and model of the car, any or all of the license plate info–make a note of it to give to the police officer who arrives at the scene.
While waiting for the police to arrive, document anything you can by taking photos or videos on your phone. If there are eyewitnesses, collect their names and contact information. It’s also a good idea to see if there are buildings nearby, whether commercial or residential, that might have security cameras that could have filmed the hit-and-run.
It’s imperative that you see a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. There are injuries, some severe and even life-threatening, that don’t always present symptoms right away.
Then call the Rundlett Law Firm at 601-282-8426 for a free, in-depth, no-obligation case evaluation. We can help determine the best course of action to identify the hit-and-run driver and pursue claims from them.
If the driver has already been identified and charged, something you should not do is enter into any communication with that driver’s insurance representative or attorney. They will want to take the blame for the accident in some way, even if it’s not your fault. They may also try to convince you to sign a much more settlement agreement than you might be eligible for. Refer all communications to your attorney.