Written by attorney Kenneth Ray Bernard Jr.

Hit and Run Legal Issues for the Car Accident Victim

Hit and run cases usually involve at least three different issues for the car accident victim: 1). Becoming a possible witness in a criminal prosecution against the at fault driver for leaving the scene of an accident and/or causing the accident; 2). Becoming a claimant for property damage, if any; and 3). Becoming a claimant for personal injuries (including medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and, if married, loss of consortium, if any). The first issue involves coordination with the local prosecutor (DA/Solicitor) usually through a victim witness coordinator in the local prosecutor's office. The prosecutor's office will need to know, among other things, what the impact of the crime has had on the victim. This information may be used to assess whether restitution is a possible punishment option-and in some cases if ordered by the court as part of the resolution to the hit and run charge, same may make the victim whole. Most do not need a personal injury attorney to deal with the local prosecutor's office as a victim/witness. The latter two issues usually require a qualified personal injury lawyer to provide representation and guidance on insurance claims and any potential suit. A qualified car accident attorney will coordinate the claim, deal with nuances in local laws, coordinate a review of medical bills and records associated with the accident, prepare a demand package, negotiate with the insurance company, if any, and file suit where warranted. Because most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, no fee unless recovery (usually a percentage of the gross amount collected, plus actual costs incurred), it is not uncommon for a personal injury lawyer to assess the issues of liability (fault) and damages (which are the direct and proximate cause of the accident). If the lawyer believes the claim is small, noncollectable, or there are problems with fault and/or damages, the lawyer may be unwilling to take the case on a contingency fee arrangement, especially if she/he opines that the potential recovery (and/or collect ability of any judgment) is slight in light of the amount of resources (time and expenses) the lawyer has to front. When lawyers review a potential matter and form concerns regarding liability, damages, or collect ability, they may be unwilling or unable to dedicate their resources to the matter. Under these circumstances and depending upon the jurisdictional limits, many states have small claim courts for smaller cases, where parties may or may not be represented by attorneys and forms may be provided to assist the claimant in asserting a claim. **This information is not intended to give specific legal advice, or to create an attorney/client relationship. Same is for topical, general audience discussion only. Laws differ depending upon the jurisdiction and venue involved. Consult with a qualified and licensed attorney in your state for advice and counsel. The author is licensed in the state of Georgia and has not assessed the merits of any potential claim, or the likelihood of a specific result.

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