Laws, penalties, and recovery options in The Aloha State
Discover the ins and outs of hit-and-run accidents in Hawaii, from state laws and penalties to seeking compensation as a victim and understanding your options as a perpetrator.
Imagine driving along a beautiful road in Hawaii, enjoying the sharp mountains and eye-popping cliffs, when suddenly, another vehicle rear-ends your car and quickly speeds away. You're left injured with a damaged vehicle and questions about what to do next.
In this article, we’ll explore hit-and-run accidents in The Aloha State, including the state’s hit-and-run laws, the potential penalties, what to do if you’re the perpetrator of a hit-and-run, and how to recover damages if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run.
Hawaii hit-and-run statistics
Hit-and-run accidents are a concern across the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a hit-and-run crash happens somewhere in the United States every 43 seconds.
In Hawaii, there are roughly 1,208 hit-and-run crashes every year, according to the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation. On average, hit-and-run crashes in Hawaii kill three people every year.
A 16-year-old girl, Sara Yara, was killed in a hit-and-run accident while walking to school in Honolulu. The suspect, 45-year-old Mitchel Miyashiro, turned himself in to the police.
Mitchel has a lengthy record of traffic offenses, including driving without a license, and has been stopped by the police 12 times in a five-year period for this offense.
Sara Yara's grieving family called for stronger pedestrian safety measures and traffic monitors for students crossing streets.
Hawaii hit-and-run laws
Under Hawaii Revised Statute § 291C-12, you must do three things after a car accident resulting in property damage, injuries, or death to avoid a hit-and-run charge:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident (or as close to the scene as possible),
- Provide your name, address, registration number, and driver’s license number to any person involved in the crash, and
- Render reasonable aid to anyone injured (for example, call emergency services).
If you hit an object or an unoccupied vehicle, you must locate the owner or leave a written note providing your name and contact information.
Finally, you must report the accident to the police if the accident resulted in injury, death, or damages of $3,000 or more.
What are the penalties for a hit-and-run in Hawaii?
The penalties for a hit-and-run accident in Hawaii depend largely on the severity of the accident.
Here’s a closer look:
|Hit-and-run penalties in Hawaii|
|Type of accident||Classification||Fine||Jail time|
|Property-damage only||Misdemeanor||Up to $2,000||Up to one year|
|Substantial injury||Class C felony||Up to $10,000||Up to five years|
|Serious bodily injury or death||Class B felony||Up to $25,000||Up to ten years|
Under Kaulana's Law, the court has the authority to extend the maximum prison term from 10 years to 20 years for offenders convicted of first-degree negligent homicide who fail to render aid.
What’s more, a hit-and-run conviction can lead to a driver's license suspension, increased insurance premiums, and a permanent criminal record.
Although “substantial injury” and “serious bodily injury” may sound like they’re describing the same thing, “serious bodily injury” accounts for injuries that approximate the risk of death, permanent loss or disfigurement, whereas “substantial injury” refers to minor injuries that will eventually heal, such as broken bones.
What should I do if I fled the scene of a car accident?
Fleeing the scene of an accident is NEVER the right decision. Nevertheless, people flee motor vehicle accidents for all sorts of reasons, including:
- Fear of legal consequences
- Lack of insurance
- Outstanding warrants
- Stolen vehicle
- Undocumented immigration status
- Prior criminal record
- Fear of personal repercussions
- Lack of knowledge or understanding
If you flee the scene of an accident, you should report the accident as soon as possible. Reporting the accident might not spare you from a hit-and-run charge, but it’s the right thing to do, and it may result in you receiving a lesser sentence.
Recovering damages after a hit-and-run accident in Hawaii
The best case scenario following a hit-and-run crash is that the police or your attorney track down the perpetrator. If you identify the hit-and-run driver, you can file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
Unfortunately, studies show that only about ten percent of hit-and-run drivers are caught. If you’re unable to identify the hit-and-run driver, the following optional 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 Hawaii.
- 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.
Additionally, the Hawaii Crime Victim Compensation Commission may provide compensation. The Commission was created in 1967 to provide compensation to victims of violent crimes for their crime-related injuries and losses.
How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Hawaii after a hit-and-run accident?
Hawaii has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, meaning that you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file your lawsuit within this two-year period, your claim will be forever barred.
There are a handful of narrow exceptions to Hawaii’s two-year statute of limitations, so it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced car accident attorney even if you think the two-year statute of limitations has run. Most initial consultations are free.
Hit-and-run accidents can be complex and overwhelming for victims. By understanding Hawaii's hit-and-run laws and taking the appropriate steps after an accident, you can protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve.