We all know we should not leave the scene of an accident, whether we caused the accident or not. However, it still happens far too often. Understanding your responsibilities at the scene of a crash and learning what to do if another driver flees the scene of your accident can help you be prepared if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash on one of Indiana’s highways or byways, as our Indianapolis car accident attorney explains.
What Is the Legal Responsibility of Indiana Drivers?
According to Indiana law, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident in which you are involved. Under the state motor vehicle code, a driver involved in a crash must do the following:
- Immediately stop his vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the accident as possible without obstructing more traffic than is necessary.
- Remain at the scene until he has given his name, address, and car registration number to everyone else involved in the crash and shown his driver’s license to everyone involved.
- If there is an injury or death, he must also attempt to give reasonable assistance to each person injured in or entrapped by the accident, as directed by a law enforcement officer, medical personnel, or a 911 telephone operator.
- If there is an injury or death, he must also call 911 or ensure that someone else at the scene has called 911.
A driver who fails to meet these requirements commits a Class B misdemeanor known as Leaving the Scene of an Accident. However, the infraction becomes more serious in the following situations:
- If the accident resulted in bodily injury, the charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor.
- If the accident results in serious bodily injury, or the fleeing driver has been charged with a similar infraction in the previous 5 years, the charge becomes a Level 6 felony.
- If the accident results in the death of another person, the charge becomes a Level 5 felony.
- If the person fleeing the scene is intoxicated and a person is killed or seriously injured, the charge becomes a Level 3 felony.
These charges are serious and can result in hefty fines and jail time if the driver is caught. However, when you are one of the injured people left behind by a hit-and-run driver, what can you do when he is not caught?
Recovering From a Hit and Run Accident
Indiana hit and run laws are designed to prevent people from fleeing the scene of an accident and to punish those who do—if they are caught. If you are injured and your car is damaged in a crash and the at-fault driver flees, what can you do? If the driver is caught—even if you have already paid for repairs and medical bills—you can sue his insurance company for the damages and recover what was lost. If he is convicted of a felony, you may also be able to recover punitive damages. You can help police locate a hit and run driver by making note of the make, model, and color of the car and taking pictures if you are able.
Unfortunately, hit and run drivers are often not caught. If this happens, you will have to rely on your own insurance company to cover the cost of your injuries. You may look to the following policies for coverage:
- Your own car insurance. You should have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage included on your Indiana car insurance policy, unless you declined the coverage in writing when you got your policy. This will cover expenses in a hit and run up to the policy limit, which is usually $25,000 for bodily injury. If you do not have this coverage, your personal injury protection, medical payments, or collision coverage will kick in.
- Your medical insurance. Barring other insurance, your medical insurance policy should cover treatment for car accident injuries.