utah hit and run accident lawyer

Utah Hit-and-Run Attorney

In many ways Utah is a reasonably safe state in which to drive. Per capita fatalities from car accidents are routinely in the bottom 20% of states nationwide. However, when it comes to number of drivers with a hit-and-run offense Utah is seventh. Factor in the number of drivers having a previous accident is 10% higher than the national average and it is clear Utah does have areas where it can improve.

Although frequently high population densities equate to more frequent car accidents, in the case of hit-and-runs the opposite is often the case. Wyoming is the least populated state but leads the nation in the percentage of drivers with a hit-and-run accident on their record. Don’t let your guard down just because you’re off exploring Uintah County and not in downtown Salt Lake.

Being the victim of a hit-and-run driver can be scary and frustrating. To make matters worse, if the offending driver is not located you could be left on the hook for expensive repair bills even though the accident was not your fault.

Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Utah

Prematurely exiting the scene of an accident carries stiff penalties in Utah. Anytime you become aware that an accident has occurred or should have reasonably been aware an accident may have occurred, the law in Utah requires you to take several steps before you are allowed to leave the scene.

utah hit and run accident lawyer

Your first duty is to stop at the nearest suitable safe location that does not impede traffic. This could be the side of the road, an off-ramp, or perhaps a side street if needed. While not always easy depending on the location they expect you to make an effort to ‘comply as nearly as possible’ with this requirement. If you can render aid safely you are required to do so. Use caution when moving someone who in injured and let emergency services handle it if possible.

The information you are required to disclose is your name, address, registration number of the vehicle, contact information of your insurance carrier, and if requested you must exhibit your driver license. If the collective damage appears to be $1,500 or more, then you must contact local law enforcement and inform them there has been an accident. Failure to fulfill all these requirements before leaving the scene of the accident opens you up to being prosecuted as a hit-and-run driver.

In cases where there is only property damage and no injuries the charge is a class C misdemeanor and you can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. This penalty fully applies to instances where the car was unattended or property damaged that was not related to a car, like a fence or mailbox for example. Fleeing an accident where any type of personal injury occurred is a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and $2,500 fine. Should serious bodily injury occur in the accident, fleeing is a third-degree felony carrying a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

What to Do If You are Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident

If you are driving your vehicle and involved in an accident where the other driver flees the scene your first concern should be on your safety. Check yourself and any passengers for injuries and call 911 immediately. Check to see if any else has been injured. Proceed cautiously as the last thing you want is to be involved in another accident from traffic that could be unaware of your situation.

utah hit and run accident

Assuming you can move your car safely, try and get it out of traffic or off to the side of the road while you wait for the police to show up. Take a moment to make a note of anything you can recall about the driver and the vehicle that has fled the scene. If there are any witnesses get a brief statement and their contact information. Even a partial license plate number of the vehicle is extremely helpful for the investigation. However, any small detail or distinguishing feature could help the police identify and apprehend the suspect.  More than two-thirds of all hit-and-run cases end up remaining unsolved. The information you are able to convey to the police can make a big impact on solving the case.

Photos taken at the scene are instrumental in preserving evidence of exactly what happened. In addition to any damage to your car be sure to also include photos of the road conditions and any nearby signage. Skid marks, damage to guard rails, or any other indicia of the accident should be preserved via photos whenever possible. Request of a copy of the police report for your records.

Leave Pursuit to Utah Law Enforcement

Any attempt to pursue the driver fleeing the scene of the accident is ill-advised. In the case of a very minor accident, it is possible the driver made an honest mistake and was not fully aware an accident had occurred. However, frequently the reason a driver flees the scene of an accident is a bit more nefarious.

They could be operating the motor vehicle illegally due to a suspended license, lack of insurance, or expired tags. Maybe they have some unpaid traffic tickets and are fearful of being arrested if they stick around for the police. The fleeing driver might be attempting to cover up a more serious crime. Perhaps they are intoxicated and flee in hopes it will prevent them from being charged with a DUII. The driver or passenger could be wanted for a previous crime or perhaps there is even drugs or illegal contraband in the car. The car could be reported as a stolen vehicle. If they are rolling in a hot car, don’t expect them to stop for a fender-bender. Wait for the police to get there and then allow them make chase.

Parking Lot Hit-and-Run Accident

utah hit and run accident

Accidents involving an unattended car or other property unfortunately do happen from time to time. A driver in this circumstance still has a duty to stop and try to locate the owner of the car or property. If unable to locate the other party, then the driver must leave a note with contact information and a brief description of the accident. The requirement of notifying police where damage is $1, 500 or more still applies. If you are ever in this position as a driver notifying police is a good idea to prevent any complications down the road. There is the possibility the note could blow away or the damage ends up being more than it appeared.

Returning to discover your car has been damaged and the driver was not considerate enough to fulfill his legal requirements can be very frustrating. Immediately contact the police and file a report. It is still important to get some pictures of the damage. Investigate the area and consider who might have seen something or if you are lucky a security camera that might have captured the incident.

Recovering Damages for Utah Hit-and-Run Accidents

Claims of this nature are typically treated the same way that a collision with an uninsured driver would be handled. The damage might be covered by your policy if you have elected for uninsured motorist, collision or no-fault insurance. The exact extent they will cover will of course be subject to the details of your policy including deductible and possibly coverage maximums. In the event your policy does not apply, you could be left with paying the bills yourself if the other driver is not identified.

Sometimes even if your coverage does apply you may still need to negotiate with your insurance company over the particulars of your claim. It is not uncommon for a party to have to resort to legal action with their own insurance company to get the full settlement they deserve. If you feel you are being low-balled by the insurance company, consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in car accidents. Having a professional representing you in can make a big difference in the final amount of a settlement. Insurance claims adjusters are sometimes quick to overlook things like getting a post-repair alignment, depreciation of the car itself, or other important details you may be entitled to compensation for.

The nuances of car insurance can be complex. Protect yourself, protect your investment by getting a free consultation to evaluate your case.

The Advocates have dedicated attorneys who will focus fully on your recovery. Having an experienced attorney who specializes in car accidents takes the guesswork out of obtaining a just settlement. Our professional staff and skilled attorneys are ready to discuss your case during a free consultation. Call us today at (801) 326-0809 or fill out the form below, or chat here right this minute with a live attorney. You deserve an Advocate!

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