How to Handle a Philadelphia Hit and Run Claim
In September of 2012, the penalty for hit-and-run accidents in Pennsylvania became stricter. Representative Dave Reed had introduced a bill changing the penalties for drivers who leave accident scenes after a 29-year-old was hit while riding his bike and the driver left instead of rendering aid. Under the new stricter penalties, there was no change to the minimum sentence of one year in prison for a fatal hit-and-run. However, the crime was upgraded to a second-degree felony instead of a third-degree felony as it had previously been classified. The law also made the maximum penalty for a fatal hit-and-run 10 years in prison, while previously a defendant could be sentenced to no more than seven years behind bars.
Stricter penalties aim to prevent drivers from fleeing accident scenes and to hold motorists accountable for their actions. A local district attorney interviewed by the Post Gazette advised drivers to always stop after accidents to try to save the lives of victims and face a lesser punishment. He commented; “Anyone who flees is always going to be treated more harshly.”
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true because PA laws still impose harsher punishments for impaired driving than for hit-and-run. A drunk driver who stays at a crash scene, for example, could face a minimum of three years imprisonment per victim with a maximum 10 year sentence. A driver who leaves the scene, on the other hand, faces a minimum of one year imprisonment if he doesn’t stop but ends up coming forward after he has sobered up and admits he crashed.
As long as perverse incentives remain for drivers to leave crash scenes, there remains a very significant risk of hit-and-run accidents. Hit-and-runs can also happen for other reasons. Some people who leave after causing a crash do so because they are undocumented immigrants, because they do not have a valid driving license, because they were uninsured, or simply because they are scared of consequences. Victims face problems when drivers flee after a crash, because those who have been hurt by the accident do not have a defendant to name in a personal injury or wrongful death damage claim. Victims need to know how to handle a hit-and-run to protect their rights.
How to Handle a Hit and Run
The best way to handle a hit-and-run is to try to make sure the driver is found. This means providing as much info as you can to law enforcement. If the driver is found and has insurance or has money, you can collect compensation for damages from his insurer or from suing the driver personally. If the driver is not ever found, or is found but has no insurance and no money, you can see if you have optional uninsured motorist coverage to pay for damages.
You can also get some of your medical bills and wage loss paid through personal injury protection insurance, which PA’s choice no fault insurance system may mandate you buy. PIP coverage is available in every accident, including hit-and-runs, regardless of who is to blame for the crash. Speaking with an experienced car accident attorney can best help protect your rights following a serious or fatal traffic collision.