The recent Minneapolis hit-and-run accident involving Joe Senser’s wife is one of many hit-and-run accidents that occur every year in Minnesota and throughout the country. In just the last few weeks, there was a hit-and-run accident in Rochester (a semi truck hit a bicyclist, causing serious injuries), and a 21-year old pled guilty to hitting and killing a 78-year-old St. Paul man and then leaving the scene of the accident. And these are only the stories that hit the news.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run crash, you likely have many questions. Why did the person flee the scene? What legal actions can you take against the hit-and-run driver? What if the hit-and-run driver hasn’t been found? How can a Minneapolis hit & run accident attorney help you recover compensation after a hit and run?
Why Would Someone Leave the Scene of an Accident?
After a hit-and-run crash, most victims want financial compensation, but they also want answers and justice. This isn’t your normal car accident, where you trade insurance information and make an insurance claim. In a hit-and-run, someone has broken the law, perhaps more than once (hit-and-run drivers are often drunk drivers), and they have caused you and your family harm.
People leave the scene of a car accident for many reasons. Some individuals have something to hide from police officers ” they are drunk, or undocumented immigrants, or driving without a license. Others flee out of fear; acting irrationally in a frightening situation. None of these reasons are justifiable. Those that cause hit-and-run accidents should be held responsible for the car accidents as well as their bad decisions.
Minnesota’s Hit and Run Laws: Criminal Charges
Under Minnesota’s laws, anyone who is involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in injury, death or property damage must stop at the scene of the accident. He or she must give his or her name, address, date of birth and license plate number and render any necessary assistance to anyone injured in the accident (including calling the police). A driver involved in an accident must provide insurance information within 72 hours of the accident.
If a driver flees the scene of a Minnesota car crash that he or she did not cause involving:
- Death: the driver may be found guilty of a felony and imprisoned for up to three years and/or fined up to $5,000
- Great bodily harm: the driver may be found guilty of a felony and imprisoned for up to two years and/or fined up to $4,000
- Substantial bodily harm or no bodily harm: the driver may be imprisoned for up to one year and/or fined up to $3,000
A hit-and-run driver who causes a fatal car accident can be charged with criminal vehicular homicide and may face up to ten years imprisonment and/or $20,000 in fines.
The criminal portion of a hit-and-run accident case is separate from the personal injury trial and is handled by prosecutors. However, while the criminal case can punish a driver for leaving the scene of an accident, you must pursue a separate personal injury claim to recover compensation for your injuries or your loved one’s wrongful death.
Recovering Compensation After a Hit-and-Run Car Accident
As we have seen with the Senser hit-and-run, the perpetrators of these auto accidents may face criminal charges as well as personal injury lawsuits. However, that only happens when police track down the perpetrator or he or she turns himself in.
What happens in your hit and run accident personal injury case will depend on a variety of factors, including whether the hit-and-run driver’s identity is known. For example, in Minnesota:
- When you know the hit-and-run driver’s identity, you can bring a personal injury claim against both your insurance company (to recover compensation for your injuries through “personal injury protection” PIP) and the other driver’s insurance company (to recover compensation for injury damages not covered by your own PIP and damages to your vehicle).
- If you do not know the hit-and-run driver’s identity, you will need to bring a personal injury claim against your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage.
Bringing a personal injury claim after a hit-and-run accident can be complicated. A twin cities hit-and-run accident lawyer can help you ensure your rights are protected and the proper parties are included in your personal injury case.