Hit-and-Run Deaths on the Rise
Hit-and-run crashes are those in which at least one person involved in the crash leaves the scene before offering any information or aid to the other person involved in the crash or fails to report the crash. Hit-and-run crashes impact the physical, social and economic burdens suffered by crash victims and also often increase the severity of the outcome due to the delay in, or complete absence, of necessary medical attention. According to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in 2015 there were an estimates 737,100 hit-and-run crashes. That number translates into approximately one (1) hit-and-run crash occurring every 43 seconds.
Of those 737,100 hit-and-run crashes, 2,049 resulted in death, representing a sixty percent (60%) increase since 2009. The report determined that pedestrians and bicyclists represent the largest portion of hit-and-run victims. Almost twenty percent (20%) of all pedestrian deaths, over the past ten (10) years, were caused by hit-and-run crashes compared to only one percent (1%) of all driver fatalities during that same period. The AAA study identified the following common characteristics in hit-and-run crashes:
- Nearly sixty-five percent (65%) of people killed in hit-and-run crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists;
- Hit-and-run deaths in the United States have increased, on average, more than seven percent (7%) each year since 2009;
- Per capita, New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida have the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes; and
- Per capita, New Hampshire, Main and Minnesota have the lowest rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes.
The study found that victim age appears to be a factor in whether or not a driver flees the scene. Pedestrians under the age of 6 or over the age of 80 are half (1/2) as likely to be victims of a hit-and-run crash. There also appears to be a gender disparity among hit-and-run victims. Males make up approximately seventy percent (70%) of hit-and-run victims in single car/single pedestrian crashes. Maybe not surprisingly, studies have shown that drivers who leave the scene are between two (2) and nine (9) time more likely to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash. Likewise, thirty-four percent (34%) of fatally injured pedestrians had a BAC level over 0.08. It is illegal in every state for a driver involved in a crash to flee the scene. As Jennifer Ryan, Director of State Relations at AAA stated, “It is every driver’s legal and moral responsibility to take necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist or another vehicle.” Research has shown that not having a valid license, at the time of the crash, is one of the largest predictors of a driver’s decision to leave the scene of a crash. A person injured by a hit-and-run driver may be able to recover for their losses through Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage issued by their insurance carrier. Under your UM coverage, you can recover for bodily injury (also known as pain and suffering) as well as economic losses such as lost wages, losses to personal property, lost future earnings. If you have "no fault" wage loss coverage you can apply for that, which is separate from UM coverage. Also, in Pennsylvania, you will have medical benefits - that will pay for medical bills and treatment up to the limits on your policy - under separate medical coverage. Alternatively, in a situation where there is no insurance coverage available to provide benefits to the injured person, that person may qualify for limited benefits under Pennsylvania’s Assigned Claims Plan. The Assigned Claims Plan is not an insurer under the law, but rather, it is an administrative organization maintained by all insurers that provide financial responsibility, as required by Pennsylvania law. Under the Plan, an eligible claimant (injured person) may recover medical benefits up to a maximum of $5,000. Eligible claimants may also recover for losses or damages suffered as a result of the injury up to $ 15,000 per person and $ 30,000 in the aggregate. However, the amount of medical benefits recovered or recoverable up to $5,000 are set off against that amount. In order to qualify for benefits under the Assigned Claims Plan the claimant must satisfy the specific requirements set forth in 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1752. If you or someone you love has been injured in a hit-and-run crash, you should speak with a lawyer about making a claim.