The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a hit and run car accident is a motorist racing through the green light, knocking down a pedestrian, and zooming off into thin air! Sometimes, the victim may sustain serious bodily injury or even lose their life. Some hit and runs may also speed off after hitting a parked car. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one hit and run accident occurs in the U.S every minute, and 20 percent of annual pedestrian deaths are caused by hit and runs.
So, What Exactly is a Hit and Run?
Basically, a hit and run is defined as being involved in an auto accident either with another car, a pedestrian, or a fixed object like a building, and then leaving the accident scene without stopping to identify yourself or provide assistance to the victim. Some states also include collision with an animal in their definition of hit and run.
In Nevada, it does not matter whether you caused the accident or not. A hit and run offense is committed by simply leaving the accident scene. Sometimes, you may have to leave the accident scene to get emergency help – by rushing to the nearby hilltop to pick up a cellphone signal, for instance. The state of Nevada does not classify this as hit and run as long as you return to the accident scene.
According to the Nevada State Laws, under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), the accident does not have to occur in a highway or public road to fall under hit and run laws. Also, NRS extends these laws to cover collisions on parking lots. For instance, ramming into a stationary car in a parking lot and failing to report the incident to the police or leave your contact information as hit and run.
Criminal Penalties That Come with Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident
Every state has its own unique laws when it comes to hit and run with most states classifying the criminal penalties as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the surrounding circumstances. In the state of Nevada, felony hit and run, according to NRS 484E.010, is generally defined as fleeing the accident scene where the victim in the accident has suffered injury.
Hit and run felony can attract a severe penalty. In Nevada, this penalty may include the following:
$2,000 to $5,000 in fines
2-20 years of jail term
Revocation or suspension of your driver’s license
Hit and run can also be classified as a misdemeanor. While some people may take the term “misdemeanor” lightly, it is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, a one-year jail term, or both.
Administrative Penalties That Come with Leaving the Scene of an Auto Accident
Alongside hit and run’s criminal penalties, the state of Nevada also has an administrative penalty that relates to your driving license. These penalties are often imposed by the states’ Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV).
Any hit and run conviction, whether it has been classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, typically attracts automatic revocation or suspension of your driver’s license for a period of six or more months. In some states, your license can be revoked for up to three years. Depending on the circumstances and nature of the auto accident, hit and run penalty may include a lifetime revocation of your driver’s license in the state of Nevada. Remember, these administrative penalties are in addition to any criminal penalty that might be imposed on you.
Civil Penalties for Hit and Run
If you have caused an auto accident that has resulted in injury or damage to property, it is possible that the victim involved in the accident may sue for damages. Such lawsuits may ask for financial compensation for lost wages, medical bills, or damage to property.
Of course, this kind of lawsuit is highly likely as long as you are deemed responsible for the accident, even if it does not fall under hit and run. That said, if you are liable for hit and run beside causing the accident, the court will most likely order you to pay for the damages. Depending on your state, you will likely face “treble damages.” This means that all damages awarded to the plaintiff are automatically tripled, mainly as punishment for bad behavior. For instance, if the plaintiff is awarded $10,000 in damages, the judge will automatically triple this amount to $30,000 because the hit and run is interpreted as egregious and reckless conduct.
Common Hit and Run Scenarios
Hit and run where the driver is never found
In situations where the driver involved in hit and run is never found, you are likely to be left striving to get the compensation you need from your insurer. If you were in your own car when the accident occurred, you will be seeking compensation from your car insurance company.
If you were a pedestrian at the time of the accident, you may end up dealing with more than one insurance company. For instance, you will want your health insurance provider to handle your medical bills while seeking other compensations from your homeowner’s policy.
The scenario of being hurt in a non-identified hit and run accident clearly requires a qualified auto accident attorney. This attorney will work with you to ensure that you are duly compensated for your losses when the other driver cannot be traced.
Hit and run where the driver is found and criminally prosecuted
It is possible to trace the hit and run driver and bring them before the court of law. In this scenario, the case can have four possible outcomes:
Enter a plea for a lesser charge
A guilty verdict, and
Not guilty verdict
Timing is crucial when pursuing an auto accident lawsuit against a motorist who is facing hit and run prosecution. It is important to understand that the threshold for convicting someone of a crime is much higher than that associated with a criminal lawsuit. As such, it is important that you walk with an auto accident attorney who will get the compensation you deserve for your case.
Hit and run where the driver is found but not criminally prosecuted
Sometimes, the driver in a hit and run accident may be found, but not prosecuted. This happens when there are no criminal proceedings to plan around. Moreover, if the driver has auto insurance, then it is their insurance company that you will have to deal with when claiming compensation.
Steps to Take When You Are the Liable Party in a Hit and Run Accident in Nevada
If the police arrive at the accident scene to investigate and file a valid accident report to the authorities, then you are not required by law to file a report as well. However, if that does not happen, then you are required to provide the following information to the law enforcement within ten (10) days:
A statement of loss or an estimate of repairs. You should obtain this from an established repair garage, licensed appraiser, or an insurance adjuster.
Name and address of your insurance company
The number of insurance policy
The insurance cover period (when it begins and expires)
Your Obligations in a Hit and Run Accident
Nevada’s revised Chapter 484E Statutes lists the responsibilities of any motorist who is involved in a hit and run accident. It also outlines the penalties for a hit and run. Below are your duties following a hit and run accident:
Stop your vehicle at the scene of the crime
Report the accident to the enforcement authorities even if no one is hurt
Give the other driver your name, contact, address, and your vehicle’s registration number. You may also show them your license. Provide the same information to police upon arrival and request
If anyone is hurt, call 911 or perform first aid if you have the skills
Failing to File a Report or Providing a False Report
Anyone who deliberately neglects or refuses to file an accident report in Nevada may have their license suspended for up to 12 months. The DMV will reinstate your license upon receiving either:
The accident report, or
You did not willfully fail to file a report
But if you are found to have filed a false report in Nevada, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. This can attract up to 364 days of jail time and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
Your Rights During a Hit and Run Investigation
According to Nevada traffic laws, you can be charged with hit and run even if you were not at fault for the crash. Besides the crash involving two automobiles, hit and run cases can also include a crash with a motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian.
Once a criminal investigation is launched against you, do not discuss the facts of the accident with the law enforcement, or anyone else, in the absence of your lawyer. Remember, anything you say can and may be used against you before the court of law. In most hit and run cases, your admission of driving is usually a key justification for arrest or proving charges against you during a trial.
Your lawyer is often best placed to narrate your version of the story without incriminating you with evidence that can work against you during the trial. You have the right to get an attorney who will help you handle the allegations and the investigation that will be conducted against you. Your lawyer will also help you deal with the insurance company when settling any personal injuries or damages resulting from the hit and run accident.
Your Defense for Hit and Run in Nevada
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you will need an attorney to argue one of the following in your hit and run defense:
The accident only injured the defendant
One of the defining elements of a hit and run accident is that it resulted in an injury to another person or damage to property. Thus, if your lawyer can argue that you sustained injury from the accident, and hence decided to drive to the nearby hospital for treatment, then your defense stands a chance.
You did not deliberately flee the accident scene
You may not be charged with hit and run if you leave the scene because it was not safe to stay there awaiting the arrival of the police.
Lack of knowledge
Holding someone liable for hit and run is quite difficult if they did not know that they caused damage to another person or property. While your lawyer may explore this as a defense, you also risk being found negligent or simply reckless.
Response to an emergency
A driver who was involved in a hit and run accident while in the middle of some form of emergency like rushing a patient to a hospital may use the situation to argue their defense.
For example, if you were at a bar, and were drugged unknowingly, then your lawyer may be able to argue the involuntary intoxication defense while representing you.
Find a Hit and Run Attorney Near Me
The right lawyer can make or break your case when you are involved in a hit and run car accident. It is important that you work an attorney who has experience handling car accident cases in general and hit and run accidents in specifically. Most important, it is prudent that you work with a lawyer who understands Nevada’s hit and run laws. Martin Hart, LLC has over 20 years of experience in representing clients who are involved in hit and run accidents in Nevada and surrounding areas. Whether you are the victim or the suspect, Attorney Hart will ensure that you get the representation you deserve during your hit and run car accident case. Call our Las Vegas criminal lawyer today at 702-380-4278 to discuss how he can represent you in your hit and run case.