Being involved in a hit-and-run accident is a traumatic experience that can leave victims feeling helpless and unsure of their legal options. Hit-and-run accidents occur when a driver involved in a collision flees the scene before exchanging information or rendering aid to those involved. In New Jersey, hit-and-run accidents are taken seriously, and victims have legal options to pursue compensation for their losses. Reach out to us to speak with a personal injury lawyer today!
Hit and Run Lawsuit in NJ
Can a person sue for a hit-and-run in New Jersey? The answer is yes, but it can be challenging. A victim of a hit-and-run accident can sue the responsible party for damages. However, commencing legal action after a hit-and-run accident is complicated because the driver responsible for the accident may not be immediately identified or located.
Following any accident, seeking medical attention and reporting the accident to law enforcement as soon as possible is crucial. The police report will record the incident, which is important evidence in legal proceedings.
Under New Jersey law, all drivers involved in a motor vehicle accident must stop and remain at the scene until they have exchanged information. They must also render aid and report the accident to law enforcement. If a driver fails to do so and flees the scene, they can be charged with a criminal offense.
Although identifying the responsible party in a hit-and-run accident is challenging, an attorney can use several methods to help with the identification process. An attorney can work with law enforcement to obtain and review traffic camera footage. Social media is also a helpful tool in identifying parties. An attorney can post information about the accident on social media and ask for the public’s help identifying the driver.
There is also the possibility that an attorney will have a go-to investigator who can thoroughly investigate the accident scene and gather evidence like witness statements or even physical evidence. If there were witnesses to the accident, an attorney could use their testimony to identify the driver responsible for the hit-and-run. Physical evidence, such as debris from the vehicle, tire tracks, and damage to the victim’s car, could also help identify the responsible driver. In most cases, the attorney will work with your insurance company to investigate the accident.
What Compensation Can I Receive After a Hit-and-Run?
Before an attorney can calculate your potential damages and the value of your case, an attorney will determine whether you can prove liability against the unknown driver. Proving liability is key because it provides the foundation for your claims against the other party. Without liability, there is no case.
To demonstrate accident liability in a hit-and-run case, the victim must prove that the negligence of another party caused the accident.
To prove negligence, you must prove the following elements:
- The other driver had a duty to operate their vehicle safely,
- The other driver that caused the accident breached this duty by engaging in unsafe behavior,
- The unsafe behavior caused the victim’s injury or death, and
- The victim suffered damages because of their injury.
Another aspect to consider, aside from who is at fault, is how much they are at fault. You won’t be entitled to compensation if you are at greater fault than the defendant. New Jersey follows a modified comparative negligence law (also called proportionate responsibility). In modified comparative negligence, the plaintiff cannot recover if deemed more at fault than the defendant. For example, if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, they receive nothing.
If your loved one died in a fatal hit-and-run accident, you might have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim can arise after a victim who would otherwise have a valid personal injury claim is killed rather than injured. The same negligence standard applies. However, rather than the injured hit-and-run victim bringing a claim, it would be the deceased person’s family.
New Jersey law provides for several types of damages a victim may be entitled to after experiencing a devastating hit-and-run accident. However, the amount a victim can recover depends on the facts of their case.
When an insurance company or court evaluates the value of a case, they first add up the quantifiable damages. These damages include:
- Medical expenses for past and future medical treatment;
- Future health care costs;
- Lost wages and benefits for the time you miss work seeking medical treatment;
- Lost earning capacity if you are unable to return to work; and
- Property damage or loss.
Next, they will add the more subjective damages that don’t have a monetary value attached to them, like pain and suffering. Other examples include:
- Physical impairments (disfigurement, scarring, or amputation);
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
- Loss of consortium (if your accident has negatively impacted your relationship).
In some cases, victims may recover damages from their insurance company if the hit-and-run driver cannot be identified or located. This benefit comes with uninsurance motorist coverage, which is required by law in New Jersey.
Additionally, where the driver acted recklessly or with malicious intent, a court may award punitive damages to punish the driver. Punitive damages are rare but possible when it comes to hit-and-run accidents.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand whether punitive damages apply to your case. An attorney will also help evaluate your case value and help you understand your legal options after an accident.
Need to Sue After a Hit & Run in New Jersey?
Being the victim of a hit-and-run accident can be overwhelming. Still, you can feel better knowing you have legal options to pursue compensation for your losses. The attorneys at Glugeth & Pierguidi, P.C. aim to achieve fairness, justice, and the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries. Our firm was recognized by Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers and has recovered more than $100 million for our clients. Contact our New Jersey office today to schedule a free consultation.