Automobile accidents are scary enough, but they get even scarier when the person you get into an accident with doesn’t even take responsibility for it. Sadly, most hit and run accidents are even with pedestrians who are left grievously injured as a result of these irresponsible actions, but they can happen between vehicles, as well.
When the at-fault driver flees, you’re left wondering what your recourse is.
Fortunately Alberta takes hit and run accidents very seriously. Here’s what you need to know if you are injured in a hit and run accident, either as a pedestrian or as another driver.
Why do drivers choose to flee the scene of an accident?
There are many reasons why drivers commit this crime. Panic is the most common reason. This is especially true of drivers who are in dire financial straits and who fear an increase in their insurance rates. Some are completely uninsured and are afraid of the even greater financial consequences of being found at-fault for an accident.
Another reason is the driver is already in the process of committing another, more severe crime. They commit the hit and run to avoid getting caught.
Fleeing the scene of the accident rarely ends well for the hit and run driver. The personal and financial consequences are usually much larger than the consequences the driver hoped to avoid by fleeing the scene.
What is the penalty for a hit and run in Edmonton, Alberta?
Section 252(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada states: “every person commits an offense who has the care, charge, or control of a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft that is involved in an accident with another person or vehicle and, with intent to escape civil or criminal liability fails to stop the vehicle give his name, address, and where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance.”
The punishment for a hit and run can be:
- Up to 5 years of imprisonment.
- If the victim dies as a result of the collision, life imprisonment.
- Fines of up to $2000.
- Up to 7 demerit points on your driver’s license.
- Possible driver’s license suspension.
- If the police determine that you were committing the crime of “dangerous driving” or were committing a DWI at the time of the accident, then you can expect even steeper consequences.
One thing that people do not often know about hit and runs in Edmonton is that if you are the owner of a vehicle involved in a hit and run offense then you are considered guilty of the offense even if you were not driving.
Hit and run drivers also see significant insurance rate hikes. Their car insurance rates can go up by 87% or more.
Do police officers investigate minor hit and runs in Edmonton, Alberta?
Here in Edmonton there are over 7000 hit and run collisions every year, and the police do investigate them all. They speak about investigating minor fender bender parking lot collisions just as they investigate hit and runs with pedestrian casualties. They investigate hit and run accidents even if nobody got hurt.
What is the hit and run investigation process, and how does it impact my personal injury claim?
Police often use security cameras and traffic cameras to find hit and run drivers, both of which are ubiquitous here in Edmonton. They also use witness reports and reports from the injured driver if the injured driver was capable of snapping a picture or able to remember the make and model of the vehicle. They even often put out bulletins asking the public to provide them with tips and information about hit and run drivers. Members of the public are often outraged enough about hit and run drivers to respond and to provide the necessary information.
It is extremely rare for hit and run drivers to get away with their crimes.
Yet as an injury victim you, too, will have to try to locate the other driver. The Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program will pay you a maximum of $200,000 if the driver can’t be found, but you have to make a good-faith effort to find the other driver first. That means your lawyer may need to help you do some independent investigation.
What should you do if you get injured in a hit and run accident?
First, get yourself and your vehicle to safety if you can.
If you are medically capable of doing so, try to collect as much information as possible from the scene of the accident.
Try to snap a photo of the hit and run driver as they take off. Try to get the names and numbers of witnesses that might help you locate the driver. Snap photos of any cameras you spot in the area: they can help you and your lawyer or the police track down the hit and run driver later. Don’t forget to get a copy of the police report, as it will be a vital piece of evidence in your Alberta hit and run car accident case.
The one thing you don’t want to do is try to chase the hit and run driver. This will put you at significant risk, and will mean that you are also leaving the scene of an accident, which can open you up to the same penalties as the hit-and-run driver! Do the right thing and get the police on the scene.
As with all car accidents you’ll want to get as many photos of the accident scene as possible. Take photos of your car, your injuries, the local conditions at the time of the accident, and any other details you can capture. Again, all of these visuals will serve as important pieces of information in your personal injury case later.
From there, it’s a matter of getting medical attention and following all of your doctor’s orders, and contacting an Alberta personal injury lawyer as quickly as you possibly can. With MVAC claims especially it is important to move quickly, and if you don’t serve notice within a specific time frame you can lose out on benefits.
If you are unconscious or unable to gather evidence, don’t worry. Experienced personal injury lawyers know how to overcome this hurdle to build you a stronger case later.
How do you get compensation in a hit and run accident?
If the hit and run driver is found and has insurance, then you will sue the hit and run driver the same way you would sue any other at-fault driver for an accident. You may even receive punitive damages in your settlement thanks to the hit-and-run behavior.
If the driver is uninsured or if the driver is never found, then you will make your claim with MVAC. This is a complex process that requires a lawyer to navigate. MVAC will pay you and then will pursue the hit-and-run driver for the debt.
Usually MVAC will end up involved before the driver is found, but if the driver is found they will have the chance to mount a defence just like any other at-fault driver would. In this instance you can come to a settlement agreement with the other driver but MVAC has to agree to the settlement amount before the agreement can proceed. Otherwise MVAC may not pay the claim.
In some cases your own insurance policy may step in. For example, if you have an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy then they may pay for damages above and beyond the damages that MVAC is willing to pay for, or which are above the $200,000 MVAC payout limit. This is why we often recommend that people buy as much UM/UIM coverage as their policies will allow for.
Your Section B medical benefits coverage may also provide some relief. These are benefits provided by your own auto insurance coverage. They are standard on all legal policies in Alberta. They provide up to $50,000 in benefits, and can cover medical bills. If you are unable to work as a result of your accident they can cover disability benefits, as well. Your Medicare may also cover some of your initial medical expenses.
Need help with a hit and run accident?
Hit-and-run accidents create some of the trickiest personal injury claims. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer working on your behalf.
Don’t leave your case to chance. Most of our lawyers have over two decades of experience helping Edmonton residents navigate claims just like yours. We’ve tracked down hit-and-run drivers, navigated the MVAC bureaucratic process numerous times, and have even gone after third parties who might have contributed to your injuries.
We’re known as some of Alberta’s toughest litigators and savviest negotiators. We’re also known for being courteous, responsive, and kind to our clients. We’ll treat you with respect, answer your questions, and fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve.
Call (780) 413-9777 to schedule a case review today.