Learn the steps you should take following a hit-and-run crash, and your legal options for recovery
The term “hit and run” refers to a crash or collision in which one of the drivers involved flees the scene without stopping to provide their information and assist the other people involved in the wreck.
Hit-and-runs can be particularly frustrating because the innocent party may be left without someone to sue.
Fortunately, hit-and-run survivors in Oregon have some options to recover damages, even if the at-fault driver is never found.
How common are hit-and-runs in Oregon?
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there are roughly 682,000 hit-and-run collisions every year in the United States.
The majority of people killed in hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or cyclists.
Oregon does not keep track of the specific number of hit-and-runs that occur in the state. However, officials estimate that hit-and-runs account for roughly 5% of all fatal accidents across the country. Oregon averages about 368 fatal crashes per year. Based on these numbers, we can estimate that there are roughly 18 fatal hit-and-run accidents in Oregon every year.
What steps do I need to take to avoid a hit-and-run charge in Oregon?
Most people understand that you’re supposed to stop at the scene of an accident, but there are other steps you need to take as well to avoid being charged with a hit and run in Oregon.
Pursuant to Oregon Revised Statutes 811.700 and 811.705, you must take 3 steps if you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident that you have reason to believe caused an injury, death, or property damage:
- Stop. Stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident (or as close to the scene as possible without obstructing traffic).
- Inform. Provide the following information to any person involved in the crash:
- Your name and address, the name of the insurance carrier covering the vehicle, the insurance policy number, and the phone number of the insurance carrier.
- The name and address of the owner of the vehicle, and the name and address of any other occupants in the vehicle.
- Assist. Render reasonable assistance for any injured parties (including taking the injured person to the hospital or making arrangements for the injured person to be taken to the hospital, if necessary).
If you discover only after leaving the scene of the collision that you may have been involved in a collision that resulted in injury or death to another person, you must immediately make a good faith effort to comply with the 3 steps listed above. What’s more, you must immediately contact 9-1-1 to report the accident.
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.
Do I need to take any steps if I hit an animal?
Drivers in Oregon have a 1 in 144 chance of hitting a deer or some other animal when driving on the state’s highways and roads, according to a study published by State Farm.
Under Oregon law, there are certain steps you must take after hitting an animal to avoid a hit-and-run charge:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident.
- Make a reasonable effort to determine the extent of the animal’s injuries.
- Give reasonable attention to the animal.
- Immediately report the injury to the animal’s owner or contact a police officer (if the animal appears to be a pet).
Failing to take the above steps may result in a Class B traffic violation, punishable by a fine between $135 and $1,000.
What are the penalties for a hit and run?
The penalties for a hit and run depend on the nature of the damage caused. At the very least, a hit-and-run driver will have to pay a fine.
|Oregon hit-and-run penalties|
|Type of accident||Category||Penalty|
|Property damage only||Class A misdemeanor||Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a fine up to $6,250, or both.|
|Injury||Class C felony||Class C felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine up to $125,000, or both.|
|Serious injury or death||Class B felony||Class B felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both.|
Tragically, Cinthya had actually run over 2 children playing in the leaf pile. Both children, ages 6 and 11, died as a result of the impact. Cinthya was arrested the next day and ultimately convicted of a hit-and-run.
The Oregon Court of Appeals later reversed the conviction on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Cinthya had “reason to believe” she’d struck 2 children.
How do I recover damages after a hit-and-run?
The best-case scenario following a hit-and-run accident is that the police are able to locate the at-fault driver. If that happens, you can file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Unfortunately, the reality is that most hit-and-run drivers are never located. Even if the hit-and-run driver is located, they may not have insurance or enough money to satisfy a judgment.
If you’re unable to recover damages from the at-fault driver, your own car insurance company may be able to provide you with some relief.
In Oregon, all drivers are required to carry the following types of insurance that may provide coverage in the event of a hit-and-run:
- Personal injury protection (PIP). All drivers in Oregon are required to carry $15,000 in PIP coverage. The $15,000 is available to cover expenses caused by physical injuries resulting from a hit-and-run crash regardless of who was at fault for the crash or if the at-fault driver is identified.
- Uninsured motorist coverage. All drivers are required to carry uninsured motorist coverage in the amounts of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per crash. Uninsured motorist coverage can be used to cover expenses caused by the physical injuries you sustain following a hit-and-run crash so long as the crash was not your fault. Your mandatory uninsured motorist coverage won’t cover property damage (i.e., the damage to your car), but an optional policy can be purchased to cover such damage.
What steps should I take if I’m the victim of a hit and run?
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run, your first reaction may be to chase after the fleeing driver. This is always a bad idea. Chasing a fleeing driver puts you and everyone else on the road in danger.
Instead, follow these steps:
- Move your vehicle to a safe spot off the road if possible.
- Call the police and provide them with any information you have about the hit-and-run vehicle (make, model, color, license plate, distinguishing features, physical description of the driver).
- Contact your insurance company to see if your policy covers hit-and-run accidents.
Finally, if you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run, consider reaching out to an Oregon personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can help you understand your recovery options if the other driver can’t be located, negotiate with insurance companies and help you take legal action if the other driver is eventually found.