Legal Options in Hit and Run Accident Claims

David Monteleone
Illinois Accident and Wrongful Death Lawyer

  Posted  |  Category : Hit and Run Accident

Personal Injury AttorneyIllinois has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country as well as one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the nation. As a result, many drivers are dangerously uninsured.

Uninsured motorists are among the most likely drivers to flee the scene of a collision. They calculate that the risk of getting caught is minimal and it is better to run away and avoid consequences.

Hit-and-run claims are quite complex. Not only must a Rockford personal injury attorney establish liability, an attorney must also locate the tortfeasor (negligent driver), in order to obtain maximum compensation. Even if a lawyer cannot locate the tortfeasor, a hit-and-run victim still has legal options.

Tracking Down the Tortfeasor

In many jurisdictions, less than a tenth (1/10) of all hit-and-run drivers are successfully prosecuted in criminal court. That is because investigators often have higher priorities. Mostly, that is because the burden of proof is so high in these situations. Unless a credible witness saw the defendant behind the wheel, hit-and-run charges normally do not hold up in court.

To fill in the evidence gap, many attorneys partner with private investigators in areas like:

  • Additional Witness Statements: For various reasons, many witnesses do not want to speak with police officers. However, these individuals will talk to a personal injury attorney. Usually, they will also agree to appear in court.
  • Body Shops: Hit-and-run tortfeasors normally do not leave their vehicles at name-brand service stations. Instead, they go to underground body shops for repairs. Lawyers know how to locate these places.
  • Stakeouts: Contrary to movies and TV, there is nothing glamorous about waiting for hours to see if a vehicle returns to a certain area. However, these stakeouts often bear fruit in the form of a lead.

Because of the high burden of proof in criminal court, such evidence is usually not too compelling. But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) meaning a little proof goes a long way.

Missing Tortfeasor Options

Despite the best efforts of attorneys and investigators, the tortfeasor often remains at large. Even if there is no defendant to act against, these victims usually still have legal options.

Most of these hit-and-run victims can file claims against their own policies. Since the insurance company wants to keep its customer happy, these claims usually settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms.

If the case does not settle for some reason, it usually goes to arbitration instead of trial. Arbitration is essentially a private trial. An arbiter is like a judge, and attorneys have free reign to introduce evidence and make legal arguments. However, there is no court reporter and no record.

Contact a Thorough Attorney

Hit and runs often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Rockford personal injury lawyer, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.