Hit-and-Run Accidents: How Can Injury Victims Preserve Their Legal Options?

Two Los Angeles-area women were hurt in early July when they were struck by a drunk driver at the intersection of 2nd Street and the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. Witnesses on the scene informed police that a woman driving a Land Rover ran a red light and hit the pedestrians while they were in the crosswalk, briefly dragging one of the victims. The driver stopped for a moment and opened her door to see what had happened, then quickly fled the scene.

Fortunately for these victims, one quick-thinking motorist followed the suspect and alerted the police of her whereabouts. The 37-year-old driver from Seal Beach was apprehended and booked on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and DUI. Both of the pedestrians were taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. To the extent that those injuries cause enduring hardship and ongoing medical expenses, these women may need to consider legal action to pursue compensation for the driver's negligence and wrongdoing. But what if the Good Samaritan had not acted to make sure that the responsible party could be identified?

Acting Swiftly to Secure Evidence

All types of accidents pose legal challenges to victims and their families, whether the injuries are chronic, catastrophic or fatal. Motor vehicle collisions, train wrecks, motorcycle crashes and other impacts cause trauma to drivers and passengers every day, from broken bones to spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries and severe burns. To assist victims and wrongful death survivors with the complex process of personal injury litigation, plaintiffs' attorneys must assemble compelling evidence of liability and the extent of the harm their clients have suffered.

Hit-and-run drivers pose an obvious difficulty, particularly when no citizen steps forward to prevent the perpetrator from escaping without being identified. But there are often other options for detection, including security camera images and eyewitness accounts that can provide crucial clues about the driver's identity. And even when the driver does manage to get away, an experienced and creative attorney can assess alternative potential sources of recovery, such as the victim's own insurance or other parties who may have contributed to the accident; for example, those creating poor lighting, unsafe road surfaces, conditions which obstruct the driver's visibility and other hazards.

Also important to investigate are parties potentially responsible for the driver's conduct. For instance, if the driver had a history of drunk driving and a vehicle was entrusted to him nevertheless, the owner might be liable. If the driver was on the job or doing an errand for another party, they might be liable for the driver's conduct.

Finally, if the injuries are serious enough, it pays to explore whether defects in the driver's car contributed to the accident. And, of course, if it is another vehicle that is hit rather than pedestrians, then you would want to look at issues of whether the car was not crashworthy.

In sum, the injured parties' rights are often directly impacted by how fast they act to retain counsel and how fast and in what ways counsel reacts to investigate all relevant information and explore all potential avenues of recovery.