Being in a car accident can be a shocking and traumatizing event by itself. When the other driver flees the scene of the accident without talking to you, it can also be frustrating and confusing. Incredibly, in almost 6% of car accidents in New Orleans, the other driver flees the scene of the accident, which accounted for over 1,000 accidents in 2018 alone - or more than 3 per day. Car accident victims can feel like they are tasked with having to be a detective to locate the vehicle that hit them which, when coupled with an injury can feel overwhelming. The good news is that a personal injury attorney or your insurance company may be able to help you locate this vehicle, taking this stress and responsibility off of you and allowing you to focus on your recovery.
Steps to Take Following a Hit and Run Accident in New Orleans, Metairie, and beyond
If you are involved in a hit and run accident in the Greater New Orleans area, Metairie, or anywhere else in Louisiana, there are steps to take to protect you and your family that you can do immediately following the accident:
Call 911 from the scene of the accident. If you are injured, the dispatcher will be able to get you immediate medical attention;
Attempt to take a photograph of the license plate of the hit and run vehicle or write down the license plate immediately as well as a description of everything you recall about the vehicle or type it into your phone;
Give the police officer all of the information you can recall;
Look for witnesses around the accident scene and take their information;
Call your insurance company - they will start an investigation on your behalf to try to locate the hit and run driver;.
If you carry uninsured motorist insurance, you may be able to make a claim against your own insurance company for personal injuries, even if you cannot locate the vehicle.
Posting the vehicle information on social media and enlisting others to help you to identify the driver can also be helpful.
How a Metairie or New Orleans Personal Injury Attorney can help you find the hit and run vehicle following a hit and run accident
If you have been involved in a hit and run accident, we may be able to help you locate the vehicle, so you can focus on your medical treatment, and we do so at no upfront charge to you.
We will be able to open an investigation immediately, and secure evidence such as witness statements and camera footage that may help to identify the hit and run vehicle. We do this while the police are performing their own investigation because we may be able to uncover more information than the police. For example, in previous cases, based on just the time and location of the accident, we have been able to pull surveillance footage from houses or stores, police surveillance camera footage from city crime cameras, and locate witnesses that helped to identify vehicles involved in a hit and run. This information needs to be obtained in the immediate aftermath of an accident or it may be deleted.
It is important to consult an experienced hit and run attorney who is aware of how to obtain and preserve all of this information and evidence and who will begin working on your case immediately.
Louisiana Law Makes Hit and Run Driving a Crime
Under Louisiana law a hit and run accident is a crime. Louisiana Revised Statute 14:100 Hit-and-run driving, provides: A. Hit and run driving is the intentional failure of the driver of a vehicle involved in or causing any accident, to stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident, to give his identity, and to render reasonable aid.
B. For the purpose of this Section:
(1) “To give his identity”, means that the driver of any vehicle involved in any accident shall give his name, address, and the license number of his vehicle, or shall report the accident to the police.
(2) “Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which involves unconsciousness, extreme physical pain, or protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty, or a substantial risk of death.
(3) “Vehicle” includes a watercraft.
(4) “Accident” means an incident or event resulting in damage to property or injury to person.
C.(1)(a) Whoever commits the crime of hit-and-run driving where there is no death or serious bodily injury shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.
(b) Whoever commits the crime of hit-and-run driving where there is no death or serious bodily injury shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, imprisoned for not less than ten days nor more than six months, or both when: (i) there is evidence that the vehicle operator consumed alcohol or used drugs or a controlled dangerous substance prior to the accident; (ii) the consumption of the alcohol, drugs, or a controlled dangerous substance contributed to the accident; and (iii) the driver failed to stop, give his identity, or render aid with the knowledge that his actions could affect an actual or potential present, past, or future criminal investigation or proceeding.
(2) Whoever commits the crime of hit-and-run driving, when death or serious bodily injury is a direct result of the accident and when the driver knew or should have known that death or serious bodily injury has occurred, shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than ten years, or both.
(3) Whoever commits the crime of hit-and-run driving where all of the following conditions are met shall be imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not less than five years nor more than twenty years:
(a) Death or serious bodily injury is a direct result of the accident.
(b) The driver knew or must have known that the vehicle he was operating was involved in an accident or that his operation of the vehicle was the direct cause of an accident.
(c) The driver had been previously convicted of any of the following:
(i) A violation of R.S. 14:98, or a law or an ordinance of any state or political subdivision prohibiting operation of any vehicle or means of transportation or conveyance while intoxicated, impaired, or while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any controlled dangerous substance on two or more occasions within ten years of this offense.
(ii) A violation of R.S. 14:32.1-vehicular homicide.
(iii) A violation of R.S. 14:39.1-vehicular negligent injuring.
(iv) A violation of R.S. 14:39.2-first degree vehicular negligent injuring.
If the Driver of the Hit and Run Vehicle was Intoxicated, you may be entitled to punitive damages
If a driver flees the scene of the accident, it is very possible that they were intoxicated.
In Louisiana, a car accident victim is typically able to recover only compensatory damages to help put them back in the same position they were in prior to the accident. One exception where you can collect punitive damages is if a person is injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The punitive damages are designed to punish the drunk driver for their reckless behavior and deter similar behavior in the future and can sometimes be amounts ten times the amount of what you could recover in a normal accident.
An injured person can recover punitive damages under Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.4 by proving the following three elements:
1. The at fault driver was intoxicated or impaired
2. The intoxication was the cause in fact of your injuries
3. The injuries were caused by the at fault driver’s wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others.
Typically, your claim is limited to the driver who injured you. At times, especially in Louisiana where the vast majority of drivers carry minimum insurance policies, your ability to recover the full worth of your injuries can be limited or difficult. Further, it is possible that an insurance policy could exclude punitive damages. We are always analyzing our client’s cases to locate additional coverage or insurance that may be available to them.
One possibility in these cases is filing suit against the bar or restaurant where the individual consumed alcohol. In Louisiana, there is an anti-dram shop statute holding that the intoxicated driver, not the business or bar who supplied him alcohol, is liable for these actions. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §9:2800.1 There are some exceptions, however, to this law. A business may be liable for the driver who (1) served alcohol to a minor; (2) forced consumption of alcohol; (3)misrepresented the alcoholic drink as non-alcoholic.
If the case involves a hit and run accident, proving the driver’s intoxication will be more difficult because there will likely be no benefit of a DUI arrest or any BAC or field sobriety tests. An experienced hit and run injury attorney will be able to explore and develop this claim in litigation and through discovery and depositions.
If you have been involved in a New Orleans hit and run accident or a Metairie hit and run accident or a hit and run accident anywhere in Louisiana, give us a call for a free consultation on how we can assist you with your claim and help you find the driver who hit you at no additional charge and no up front fee.
This is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.