Find out how Utah’s unique insurance system impacts recovery after a hit-and-run incident
Explore the intricacies of Utah's hit-and-run laws, from the chilling statistics to the legal steps one should follow post-incident. Whether you're a victim seeking guidance or a perpetrator unsure of what to do next, our guide can help.
Imagine you’re cruising down Utah’s scenic Highway 12, with majestic red rock formations surrounding you, when suddenly your scenic drive is interrupted by a jarring collision. Even more shocking, the other vehicle speeds off, leaving you injured and confused.
How do you recover damages if you can’t identify the at-fault driver?
This article aims to shed light on Utah’s hit-and-run laws, providing guidance for victims and perpetrators alike.
Utah hit-and-run statistics
Utah is one of the most accident-prone states in the country. In 2021, there were 61,406 car crashes, resulting in 26,437 injuries and 332 fatalities.
Although Utah doesn’t keep detailed hit-and-run statistics, the AAA Foundation for Safety estimates that there are more than 700,000 hit-and-run accidents in the United States every year, which translates to one hit-and-run incident every 43 seconds.
What you need to know about Utah’s hit-and-run law
Utah’s hit-and-run law can be found in Title 41, Chapter 6a of the Utah Code.
To avoid a hit-and-run charge in Utah, 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.
Do I need to show anyone my driver’s license?
Utah law requires you to show your driver’s license upon request to the following people after an accident:
- Any investigating peace officer
- The person struck
- The operator of the vehicle struck
- Any occupant of the vehicle struck
- The owner of property damaged in the accident
What are the penalties for a hit-and-run in Utah?
The penalties for a hit-and-run in Utah vary depending on the severity of the crash. Here’s what you need to know:
|Utah hit-and-run penalties|
|Nature of the accident||Classification||Fine||Jail|
|Property damage||Class B misdemeanor||Up to $1,000||0-180 days|
|Injury||Class A misdemeanor||Up to $2,500||0-365|
|Serious injury||Third-degree felony||Up to $5,000||Up to 5 years|
|Death||Third-degree felony||Up to $5,000||Up to 5 years|
What should I do if I’m the victim of a hit-and-run incident?
Being the victim of a hit-and-run incident is understandably overwhelming. Here are six simple steps to take:
- Stay safe: First and foremost, don’t chase after the hit-and-run driver. Engaging in a high-speed pursuit puts you and others on the road in danger.
- Report the incident: Contact the police and file a report as soon as possible. Be sure to provide any details that might help the police identify the hit-and-run driver.
- Seek medical attention: Some injuries don’t manifest until hours, days, or even weeks after an accident. If you’re involved in a car crash, it’s a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible.
- Document everything: Take pictures, note details, and gather the contact information of any witnesses.
- Contact your insurance company: Promptly notify your insurance company that you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
- Seek legal counsel: A personal injury attorney can help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
How do I recover damages after a hit-and-run accident?
Unlike most states, Utah is a no-fault insurance state. This means that, after a car accident, your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy will cover some of your damages, regardless of who was at fault.
This is good news if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run crash, as it allows you to receive compensation from your own insurer even if you’re unable to identify the hit-and-run driver.
However, there's a significant exception to consider. Should your injuries be substantial, causing medical bills to surpass your PIP policy limits (commonly set at $3,000), pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against the elusive hit-and-run driver becomes necessary. Naturally, this poses a challenge if the driver can't be tracked down. So, are there any other options?
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage: If the hit-and-run driver is never found, they are essentially treated as an uninsured driver. If you have UM coverage (which is optional in Utah), it can help pay for injuries.
- Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage: If your injuries exceed the PIP and UM limits, and you carry UIM coverage, it can help pay for your injuries up to the UIM policy limits.
- Health Insurance: If your medical costs exceed your PIP limits and you don't have UM or UIM coverage, your health insurance may cover your medical bills.
- Collision Coverage: While this doesn't cover injuries, if you have collision coverage, it can help pay for the repairs to your car after a hit-and-run.
- Civil Lawsuit: Even if the hit-and-run driver isn't found, if there's evidence that another party's negligence contributed to the accident (a municipality for a poorly designed road, for example), you might have grounds for a lawsuit against that party.
- Crime Victim Reparations: In cases where you're a victim of a crime, like a hit-and-run, you might be eligible for financial assistance through Utah's Office for Victims of Crime.
Learn more about Utah car accidents, including how to recover damages after a car crash.
What should I do if I fled the scene of an accident?
Fleeing the scene of an accident is never the right decision, but it’s a human impulse. There are a number of reasons why you might flee the scene of an accident. For example:
- You might panic
- You might be afraid to confront the victim
- You might be intoxicated
- You might be uninsured
- You might not realize that you hit something until you get home
If you flee the scene of an accident, you should immediately call the nearest police station and provide notice of the accident, along with your contact information. Doing so might not save you from a hit-and-run conviction, but it’s the right thing to do and it may result in you receiving a lesser sentence than if law enforcement tracks you down.
5 FAQs about hit-and-run accidents in Utah
Technically, no. Utah law only requires you to stop at the scene of an accident if you know you were in an accident or have reason to believe you were in an accident. Keep in mind, however, that it’s very difficult to convince a judge or jury that you weren’t aware you were involved in an accident.
Yes, a hit-and-run accident may increase your premiums.
You typically have four years to file a lawsuit after a hit-and-run before your claim is forever barred.
In Utah, car insurance typically follows the vehicle, not the driver. Accordingly, your insurance would likely serve as primary coverage for your friend. However, the specifics depend on your policy and the circumstances of your accident.
Yes, Utah’s hit-and-run laws apply not only to motorists but also to incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.
Utah’s hit-and-run laws are in place to protect both drivers and victims. While accidents can be traumatic, fleeing the scene complicates matters. If you have additional questions about hit-and-run accidents in Utah, consider reaching out to an experienced attorney. Most initial consultations are free.