It’s difficult to understand how someone could cause an accident and leave the scene without checking to see if the driver and passengers in the other vehicle are injured or not. And yet hit-and-run accidents happen an average of 2,000 times each day in the United States and 68 times each day in Indiana. In 2020, there were 24,892 hit-and-run accidents in Indiana.
Why Do Drivers Leave the Scene of the Accident?
Dr. J. Thomas Dalby, a psychology professor from the University of Calgary and author of the paper, “The Psychology of Hit and Run,” is considered a forensics expert on the topic of hit-and-run drivers. He says, “Overwhelmingly, those who flee the scene of a hit and run have made an instant decision – within seconds – about the cost of staying versus taking off.” Although Dr. Dalby mentions blind panic as one possible reason, there are several others.
The Washington Post mentions several in their article, “Psychology 101: Why Do Drivers Involved in Crashes Flee the Scene?” Drivers may flee because they are:
- Attempting to avoid consequences.
- For example, drivers may have been drinking or taking drugs.
- They may have an outstanding warrant for their arrest.
- They may be driving a stolen car or have contraband in their vehicle.
- They may not have a driver’s license, up-to-date insurance, or registration.
- Unaware that they have hit another vehicle or pedestrian. This could happen because:
- They are under the influence and not aware of their surroundings.
- They are in such an adrenaline-charged state of panic that they block it out.
- Convinced that the accident was trivial and that they are not required to stop.
What Is the Law in Indiana?
It is a felony to leave the scene of an accident where someone has been injured or killed. This law applies no matter who actually caused the accident.
Indiana Code 9-26-1-1.1 states that a driver involved in an accident must:
- Stop the vehicle –either at the scene of the accident or as close as is safely possible without obstructing traffic.
- Remain at the scene of the accident and give the following details to anyone involved in the accident:
- Name and address
- Registration number of the vehicle
- Show driver’s license
- If the accident has caused injury or death, the operator of the vehicle must also:
- Provide reasonable assistance to anyone injured or trapped
- Report the accident to the local police department, nearest county sheriff or county police post, or 911 operator.
- If the accident has caused damage to an unattended vehicle or property, the driver must attempt to find the owner. If that is unsuccessful, the driver must notify a law enforcement officer or agency and provide information.
Possible Criminal Charges
- Leaving the scene of an accident with damage amounting to $1,000 or more (even one with no injuries) is a Class B misdemeanor.
- Leaving the scene of an accident where a person has been injured is a Class A misdemeanor.
- Leaving the scene of an accident is considered a felony if:
- A person has been moderately or seriously injured or has died.
- If the operator of the vehicle has been convicted of any of the offenses listed in IC 9-30-10-4
What Can You Do if You Are Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Unfortunately, there is always the possibility that the other driver will not behave appropriately. If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, here are the steps you should take:
- Try to note the license plate of the other car if the driver seems to be leaving. Remember as many details about the other driver and their car as you can.
- Call the police, but also get contact information from any witnesses before they also leave the scene (although hopefully, witnesses will wait for the police to arrive so that they can make statements).
- If the police do not find the other driver, you will make a claim with your own insurance company. Unless you specifically turned it down in writing, you will have Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
- Contact an experienced Indiana car accident attorney to help you navigate the process of negotiation with your insurance company, or with the other driver’s insurance company if they are found. You may have a legal battle on your hands, so strong legal representation is crucial.
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