Options for Victims After Hit and Run Crash in Maryland

More than a week after a woman was struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident, Ocean City, Maryland police have filed charges against the driver who fled the scene. According to a September 7, 2017 report from WBOC News 16, authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of a 38-year-old man, who will face:
  • Two counts of failure to remain at the scene of a fatal accident;
  • Two counts of failure to remain at the scene of a crash causing injury
  • Failure to provide assistance following a traffic incident; and,
  • Negligent driving.

The accident occurred in the early morning hours of August 30, 2017, near the intersection of Second Street and Philadelphia Avenue in Ocean City. Officials state that the 21-year-old victim was riding her bicycle southbound when she was hit from behind by an SUV being driven by the accused. The SUV driver failed to stop after the collision, which caused serious injuries to the victim; she was transported by first responders to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, where she died two days later as a result of her injuries.

The story raises interesting issues about liability after a hit-and-run accident in Maryland, whether a victim is killed and the case proceeds as a wrongful death or the victim survives and pursues a personal injury case.

 

Responsibilities of Maryland Drivers After an Accident

Any motorist involved in an accident that causes property damage, injury, or death, has certain legal obligations under Maryland law. He or she must remain at the scene as long as necessary to:

  • Render assistance to an injured person;
  • Call 911 for emergency assistance or otherwise arrange transportation to a facility for medical care, for anyone who requests it or clearly needs it;
  • Provide name, contact information, and the vehicle registration number to any person injured in the accident or attending to property damage;
  • Provide this same information to a responding law enforcement officer; and,
  • Show his or her driver’s license if requested.

If it is not possible to comply with these legal duties, a driver must report the accident to police and provide the necessary information. Examples might be when a person is not available to receive the information (e.g., hitting a parked, unattended car) or no police officer arrives on the scene.

The penalties for failure to remain at the scene of a fatal accident, a crash that causes injuries, or an accident that results in property damage can be serious. Fines range from $500 up to $10,000, and the offender may be sentenced from 60 days up to 10 years in prison.

 

Locating a Hit and Run Driver

Regardless of the criminal penalties for a hit-and-run driver, these do not compensate victims who are injured as a result. In a typical personal injury case, you would seek to recover from the responsible party, often through his or her insurance company. The fact that the driver fled the scene of the accident makes this difficult, but it may be possible if you take quick action and retain an attorney for assistance.

 

In the Immediate Aftermath of the Accident

  • Get as much information about the car that struck you, including make, model, and color;
  • Jot down the license plate number, and,
  • Reach out to any potential witnesses to the accident and obtain their contact information.

 

Before Leaving the Scene

  • Note the time, location, and date of the incident;
  • Take pictures of the accident scene;
  • Take pictures of your own vehicle, especially areas where it suffered damage or where the other car’s paint is evident;
  • Document the businesses nearby, as you may be able to request video surveillance to help you identify the vehicle.

 

Your Options for Seeking Compensation as the Victim of a Hit and Run

If you are able to identify the driver who fled the scene of an accident, you can recover compensation for such damages as:

  • Medical expenses, including costs of emergency treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care;
  • Lost income, if you were unable to work as a result of your injuries;
  • Pain and suffering, both physical and emotional; and,
  • Loss of relationships, based upon how your injuries affect your interaction with your family members.

In addition, because of the criminal nature of the hit-and-run driver’s actions, it is possible to seek punitive damages. These are damages intended to punish the other motorist for his or her conduct. However, in Maryland punitive damages can be difficult because you must prove actual malice of the other driver. Through your own testimony about the circumstances of the accident, and the statements of witnesses, you may be able to convince the responsible party’s insurer or a court that actual malice was involved.

If you cannot identify the hit-and-run driver, you may consider turning to your own insurance company to file a claim for compensation. These types of claims typically proceed under your coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, so there may be limitations on the amount you can recover. This is why it is critical to obtain as much information as possible in the immediate aftermath and before you leave the scene of the accident.

 

Talk to an Experienced Maryland Personal Injury Attorney

While the surviving family members of the victim in the Ocean City, Maryland hit-and-run accident are fortunate to know the identity of the responsible driver, this may not always be the case. If you are injured or you lose a loved one under such circumstances and are unable to locate the driver, you may feel bewildered about how to proceed.

Hit-and-run cases may present unique challenges, but you do have options when you retain an experienced personal injury attorney to represent your interests. A lawyer can help you seek out a hit-and-run driver, with access to special investigators and tools to make sure that person does not escape liability – both criminal and civil. If you run into dead ends with trying to find the offender, an attorney may be able to help you file a claim with your own insurance provider.

 

Justin P. Katz
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Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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