Steps to take if you're involved in a hit-and-run, either as a victim or perpetrator
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a hit-and-run crash happens somewhere in the United States every 43 seconds. In Wyoming, there are roughly 1,500 hit-and-run crashes per year.
Wyoming’s wide-open roads and scenic landscapes disguise a harsh reality: hit-and-run accidents are a serious problem in the least-populous state in the country.
This article offers a detailed guide on Wyoming’s hit-and-run laws, helping victims understand their rights and guiding perpetrators through the potential repercussions and legal obligations.
What constitutes a hit-and-run in Wyoming?
Wyoming Statutes section 31-5-1101 outlines the legal definition of a hit-and-run. The statute specifies that any driver involved in an accident resulting in property damage, injury, or death must take the following actions:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash,
- Provide contact information, insurance details, and a vehicle license number to anyone involved in the crash, and
- Offer reasonable assistance to anyone injured.
If a driver collides with an unoccupied vehicle, the driver must:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident, and
- Locate the owner of the property or leave a written note providing the driver’s name and contact information.
Penalties for a hit-and-run in Wyoming
Hit-and-run incidents in Wyoming are taken seriously and can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the severity of the accident.
Let’s take a closer look:
|Wyoming hit-and-run penalties|
|Type of accident||Jail||Fine|
|Property damage only||Up to 6 months||Up to $750|
|Injury or death||Up to 1 year||Up to $5,000|
Are hit-and-run incidents common?
Fatal hit-and-run crashes have been on the rise for the past decade, and the increase has far outpaced the uptick in the number of deadly crashes in the same period.
In Wyoming, roughly 1.1 percent of all fatal crashes are classified as hit-and-run crashes. Although this number may seem low, it’s important to keep in mind that many hit-and-run crashes lead to severe injuries, even if they don’t always result in fatalities.
On average, there are more than 1,500 reported hit-and-run crashes every year in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
On October 26, 2022, a serious hit-and-run crash occurred in Torrington, Wyoming. Around 9:20 a.m., Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP) troopers were called to assist the City of Torrington Police Department. The investigation involved reviewing video footage from a school bus and a nearby business. It was discovered that a 2002 Chevrolet Blazer, while making a left-hand turn onto West Valley Road, collided with a female pedestrian. The driver, identified as 68-year-old Juan Gomez Gallardo of Torrington, fled the scene without aiding the injured pedestrian.
Subsequently, on December 8, 2022, the Goshen County Attorney’s Office charged Gallardo with aggravated assault and battery causing serious bodily injury, operating a vehicle without insurance, leaving the crash scene, and failing to provide information and render aid.
How to recover damages after a hit-and-run accident in Wyoming
Recovering damages following a hit-and-run accident in Wyoming involves different approaches, depending on whether the at-fault driver is identified or not.
If the driver is identified, victims should:
- File a police report: Reporting the incident to a police officer is an important step in identifying the hit-and-run driver. What’s more, a police report can be used to support a future insurance claim.
- Gather evidence: Collect as much information as possible, including photos of the scene and witness contact information.
- File an insurance claim: If the at-fault driver is identified, you can file a claim against their insurance.
- Seek legal counsel: If you suffered an injury in your accident, it’s a good idea to consult with a car accident attorney. An experienced attorney can explain the true value of your injuries, negotiate with the insurance company, and file a lawsuit if necessary.
If the driver is never identified, there are several types of auto insurance that may still provide compensation:
- Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage: In Wyoming, drivers have the option to purchase UM coverage. This can provide compensation for your injuries and damages if the at-fault driver cannot be identified.
- Collision coverage: If you have collision coverage, it can help pay for repairs to your vehicle, regardless of who was at fault.
- Medical payments coverage: This optional coverage can help with medical expenses resulting from the hit-and-run crash.
In both scenarios, it’s important to act promptly. There are time limits for reporting accidents, filing insurance claims, and filing personal injury lawsuits.
Steps to take if you’re the perpetrator of a hit and run
Leaving the scene of an accident is often a decision made in the heat of the moment. The reasons for such a choice can be varied: a surge of panic, fear of confronting the other driver, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, lacking proper insurance, or even not realizing the accident has occurred.
Though various factors might compel someone to flee an accident scene, it's important to recognize that this action is always incorrect and can lead to serious legal consequences.
If you fled 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.