If you’ve been harmed in a car accident scenario in which the defendant-driver fled the scene of the accident — known colloquially as a “hit and run” — then you may be entitled to damages, though litigation may be more complicated than a standard car accident case. In a hit and run lawsuit, there are a number of unique challenges and opportunities to keep in mind when considering the dispute process.
Let’s take a closer look.
Identifying the Defendant
Perhaps the most significant problem facing injured plaintiffs in hit and run accidents is identifying the defendant in the wake of the accident. If the defendant gets away without leaving a “trail,” then you might not have an opportunity to litigate your claims against them and obtain the compensation you deserve.
Given the risk of a defendant successfully avoiding a lawsuit in a hit and run accident, it’s important to consult a skilled attorney as early as possible — your attorney will work with expert investigators and various stakeholders (i.e., law enforcement, businesses located near the accident) to secure evidence, such as video footage and traffic photos, to secure information that could be used to identify and track down the defendant.
When the defendant flees the scene of the accident, they are painting themselves as the liable party, even if their negligence is questionable. If you can identify the defendant-driver and bring an action against them, they will be fundamentally disadvantaged throughout the litigation process, as they must account for the fact that a jury will have a negative perception of them.
Punitive Damages Availability
When the defendant flees the scene (assuming that they did not do so in response to physical violence or threats of harm), they are engaging in willful misconduct. As such, under Arizona law, the court may choose to award bonus punitive damages to punish the defendant for their egregious conduct, and to discourage others from similar hit and run conduct.
Punitive damages can raise the damages substantially. If you are entitled to recover $100,000 in compensatory damages (i.e., medical expenses, wage loss, pain and suffering, etc.), then your punitive damages could be a three-times multiple of those damages, or $300,000, for $400,000 in total. If you can establish the possibility of punitive damages, the defendant is very likely to negotiate a favorable settlement early to avoid the risk of being saddled with such a large financial burden.
Contact an Experienced Phoenix Car Accident Lawyer to Schedule a Free Consultation
At Hirsch & Lyon, our attorneys have decades of experience litigating claims on behalf of those who have suffered injuries in Arizona car accidents that were caused due to the fault of another party.
Our team is well-positioned to represent you at every stage of the litigation process, from identifying the defendant to negotiating a settlement, to advancing the case to trial if necessary.
Ready to learn more about your claims and what you can do to move forward on the road to recovery? We encourage you to call 602-535-1900 or submit an online case evaluation form to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Phoenix car accident lawyer at Hirsch & Lyon today.