The consequences and steps to recovery in hit-and-run crashes
Learn about Arkansas hit-and-run laws, including the penalties for offenders and the steps both perpetrators and victims should take following a hit-and-run accident.
The screech of tires, a sudden crash, and a car speeds away into the night.
Hit-and-run crashes can be a nightmare for victims and a life-altering mistake for drivers who flee the scene. Before you put your key in the ignition, it’s essential to understand the consequences of hit-and-run crashes in Arkansas and the steps involved in dealing with them.
What is a hit-and-run crash?
A hit-and-run crash occurs when a driver involved in a collision with another vehicle, a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or an object leaves the scene without stopping to exchange information and render reasonable aid.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a hit-and-run crash occurs somewhere in the United States every 43 seconds.
Hit-and-run crashes account for roughly seven percent of the total number of car crash fatalities in the country. Although Arkansas doesn’t keep track of hit-and-run statistics, we can estimate, based on the national numbers, that roughly 38 people die as a result of hit-and-run crashes every year in Arkansas.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Brett came off his bike and hit the hood and windshield of Raymond’s car. He was killed instantly.
Raymond fled the scene, but a witness was able to get his license plate number. Cell phone records obtained after the crash helped support the prosecution’s allegation that Raymond struck Brett’s bicycle and fled the scene.
Raymond claimed he thought he hit a deer. He was ultimately sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Penalties for a hit-and-run in Arkansas
Arkansas law imposes severe penalties for fleeing the scene of a motor vehicle accident.
Under Arkansas Code § 27-53-103, a driver who flees the scene of a motor vehicle crash is subject to the following penalties based on the damage caused by the crash:
|Type of crash||Charge||Penalty|
|Property-damage only||Class A misdemeanor||Up to one year in jail; fine up to $2,500|
|Physical injury||Class D felony||Up to six years in prison; fine up to $10,000|
|Death||Class B felony||Five to twenty years in prison; fine up to $15,000|
So how do you avoid being convicted of a hit-and-run in Arkansas?
To avoid a hit-and-run charge in Arkansas, you must take three steps if you’re involved in an accident that causes an injury, death, or property damage:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident (or as close to the scene as possible),
- Provide your name, address, insurance company, insurance policy number, and vehicle license number to any person involved in the crash, and
- Render reasonable assistance to anyone injured.
But what happens if you hit an unoccupied vehicle?
If you collide with an unoccupied vehicle, you must:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident, and
- Locate the owner of the property or leave a written note providing your name and contact information.
What should I do if I fled the scene of a car accident?
Drivers typically flee the scene of car crashes due to panic, fear of consequences, or lack of car insurance.
Although it’s never a good idea to flee the scene of a crash, there are steps you can take to minimize the consequences.
Most importantly, return to the scene and contact the police as soon as possible to report the accident. Being honest and cooperative with law enforcement can improve your chances of receiving a more lenient sentence. What’s more, you might save the life of the person you hit, which, in addition to being the right thing to do, could help you avoid serving an additional 14 years in prison.
What should I do if I’m the victim of a hit-and-run crash?
As the victim of a hit-and-run crash, your first priority should be your safety. Here are some steps you can take:
- Pull over to a safe spot and seek medical attention if necessary.
- Call the police and provide them with any information you have about the hit-and-run vehicle (make, model, color, license plate number, distinguishing features, physical description of the driver, etc.).
- Take photos of any damage you suffered and the scene of the crash.
- Collect contact information from any witnesses.
- Contact your insurance company to see if your policy covers hit-and-run accidents.
Whatever you do, do NOT chase after the hit-and-run driver. Doing so may lead to further harm to you and others on the road.
How do I recover damages after a hit-and-run crash?
If you or the police are able to identify the hit-and-run driver, you can make a claim against their insurance or file a personal injury lawsuit against them, just as you would with any other car crash.
If you’re unable to identify the hit-and-run driver, the following insurance policies may still provide coverage:
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage provides coverage for damages sustained as a result of an accident involving a driver who can’t be located. UM coverage is not required in Arkansas. However, when you apply for liability coverage, the insurer is required to offer you an opportunity to purchase UM coverage. As a result, many drivers have UM coverage in Arkansas.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage provides up to $10,000 in coverage regardless of who’s at fault. Whether or not PIP covers hit-and-run accidents depends on your specific policy.
- MedPay coverage. MedPay coverage provides coverage for medical expenses regardless of who’s at fault. Again, whether or not MedPay covers hit-and-run accidents depends on your specific policy.
For both victims and perpetrators, it’s critical to understand Arkansas’ hit-and-run laws. As the saying goes: knowledge is power, and when it comes to hit-and-run accidents, being armed with the right knowledge could help you recover the damages you deserve or avoid serving prison time.