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When you’re traveling down one of Ohio’s most dangerous roads — or even one of the safer ones — the last thing you expect is to get into a car accident with someone who doesn’t stop. Or, your car is parked overnight in front of your house, and you wake up to damage from a hit and run.
Hit-and-run accidents can be more than just inconvenient — they can be deadly. And they can happen to anyone. In the U.S., 18% of pedestrians killed in 2014 were struck in crashes involving hit-and-run drivers. Here at home in Ohio, a 70-year-old bicyclist in New Russia Township was killed in 2015 by a hit-and-run driver. And earlier this year, a City of Toledo fleet driver resigned after he crashed a city-owned Jeep and left the scene of an accident — twice.
So, what do you do when a hit and run occurs? In this post, we’ll discuss how hit-and-run reporting works in Ohio, when you should file a police report, penalties for hit-and-run accidents, and why you might want to consider a personal injury lawsuit.
What do police do in a hit and run?
First, let’s talk about what is considered a hit-and-run accident. This is when any driver intentionally leaves the scene of an accident without providing any contact information.
What will help the police help you is if you do the following immediately after being involved in or discovering damage from a hit-and-run accident:
- Get as much information about the offending vehicle as possible, including make, model, and license plate number;
- Look for any possible witnesses and take down their names and phone numbers;
- Before you leave the scene, make sure to write down the time and date of the accident . and take pictures of both the accident scene and your car;
- If you didn’t witness the hit and run (e.g., it happened when your car was parked overnight somewhere), take down as much information as you can, including estimated time, location, and damage details.
It’s important to keep in mind that some people do try to defraud the insurance system in filing false claims, so you’ll want to have as much evidence as possible on you before reporting the incident to police.
How long do you have to report a hit and run?
If you are the person who caused the hit and run and you cannot locate the owner of the damaged property after a reasonable search, you have 24 hours after the accident to tell the police and give a full description of the time, location, and extent of the damage.
If you are someone who was injured or whose property was damaged in a hit and run, you’ll want to report the incident to police and your insurance company as soon as possible, but there may be time limits for when to file a compensation claim. If you are injured during a hit and run accident, for example, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of the incident in Ohio.
Do not attempt to chase someone who has hit your car, even though it’s important for you to get as much information as possible on a hit-and-run driver. Calling the police soon after instead of risking your safety and possibly getting into another accident is a better idea.
If the police are unable to locate the driver, having a police report on file will still make your claims process that much easier.
Hit-and-run Drivers: Beware of the Hit Skip Ohio Penalty
So long as you had knowledge of the accident or collision, it is illegal to leave the scene without giving your name and contact information of both the vehicle operator and the owner of the vehicle, if different from the operator, to any person injured in the accident, to the operator and occupants of any motor vehicle damaged, and to the police officers at the scene. If an injured person is unable to comprehend this information, the other operator involved must stay at the scene until a police officer arrives unless they are removed by an emergency vehicle or ambulance. For vehicles unattended and damaged, operators must attach their information in writing on the vehicle.
Leaving the scene is illegal in Ohio
If you break the law in Ohio and leave the scene of an accident on a public road or highway, it’s called a “hit skip.” Penalties for this misdemeanor of the first degree include up to six months in jail, $500 in fines, and a minimum 6-month suspension of your driver’s license.
However, the penalties can be even greater, depending on how severe the accident. For drivers who leave the scene of an accident in Ohio and know that there was some serious injury involved, the charge increases to a felony of the fourth degree. If he or she knew someone died, it’s upgraded to a felony of the second degree.
In some cases, drivers leave the scene of the accident because they are worried about racking up any other number of offenses. They may be driving on a suspended or revoked license, or not be carrying insurance or adequate insurance. They could also be driving drunk, or distracted. But leaving the scene of an accident is not worth the possible add-on criminal offenses or traffic violations in serious cases, including vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular assault.
Filing an Insurance Claim or Lawsuit for a Hit and Run
Sometimes, a crash can be so minor, you don’t even notice it. You slid on ice in the winter in Ohio and lightly bump a parked car, for example. Or maybe you hit a curb and didn’t realize you caused damage to someone’s mailbox.
It’s important to remember that hit-skip convictions cannot happen unless the driver knowingly left the scene of an accident or collision. But how can those still hurt get help?
If you have uninsured motorist coverage on your car insurance plan, it may cover much of the property damage or medical costs involved. However, Ohio is one of just a handful of states where uninsured motorist property damage coverage does not cover damages from a hit and run (and it is not required to be carried). Instead, you will use personal injury protection, medical payments coverage, and collision coverage to cover injuries and car damage in an Ohio hit and run accident. Make sure you speak with your insurance company about being “not at fault” to decrease any chances of your insurance rates increasing.
If you are able to find the person who caused the accident, you can file a claim with that driver’s car insurance company. Minimum liability limits in Ohio are coverage of up to $50,000 for all people injured in an accident, subject to a $25,000 limit for one individual, and $25,000 for property damage. If a hit-and-run driver was uninsured or didn’t carry adequate insurance protection for your injuries or property damage — more than 1 in 8 drivers in Ohio is uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council — you may not just be looking at a potential criminal case, but a civil lawsuit.
An experienced Ohio personal injury attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve by either filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf. If you or a loved one have been injured in a hit-and-run accident, contact us today for a free case review.