A guide to your legal options after a hit-and-run accident in Atlanta
In Atlanta and all across Georgia, the increasing frequency of hit-and-run accidents has become a pressing concern for everyone on the road. Whether you were the victim of a hit-and-run while driving for work, sightseeing or simply running errands, the impact of such incidents can be far-reaching, affecting not just your physical well-being but also your peace of mind.
This article will delve into the alarming trend of hit-and-run accidents in Atlanta, exploring their causes, the challenges they pose for victims, and the legal avenues available for those affected. We’ll also provide insights into navigating the aftermath of these distressing events, from dealing with insurance complications to understanding your options for recovering compensation.
If you’ve recently been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, don’t just assume you have no path to justice and financial recovery.
Reach out to the experienced Atlanta injury attorneys at Gerber & Holder to start exploring your legal options.
How common are hit-and-run accidents and fatalities in Georgia?
According to a recent study of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Georgia hit-and-run fatalities have seen an alarming rise in recent years, up from 37 in 2012 to 79 in 2021, a startling 113.5% increase.
Currently, Georgia ranks 24th among the states with the most hit-and-run deaths during this time, with these accidents accounting for about 4.6% of all fatal car crashes in the state.
But these accidents aren’t just impacting drivers; pedestrian deaths from hit-and-run accidents in the Atlanta area have also been climbing. One local organization, Propel ALT, recently told 11Alive News that this is partly due to poor urban planning over the last few decades that focused primarily on vehicle traffic, noting that less than 10% of Atlanta’s streets account for 73% of all serious crashes in the city.
This trend may also be exacerbated by other factors, such as the rise in distracted driving, the increase in traffic volumes, and potentially inadequate enforcement of traffic laws. These elements, combined with the city’s infrastructure, which often lacks sufficient provisions for pedestrian and cyclist safety, have undoubtedly contributed to the growing number of hit-and-run incidents in the Atlanta area.
In the news: Warrant issued for Atlanta hit-and-run driver who injured a family of 11
In September 2023, a 32-year-old Atlanta woman, recently identified as Nishan Moten, allegedly fled the scene after a crash that injured 11 members of the Barringer family. The incident occurred on Interstate 85 at the Chamblee Tucker Road exit when Moten, driving her Jeep, allegedly collided with a party bus carrying the family from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Texas for a college graduation.
Following the crash, Moten reportedly fled the scene on foot. The family, impacted significantly by the accident, has faced numerous hospital stays and injuries, with 2 of the youngest members, aged 18 and 22, losing fingers and toes and requiring ongoing medical care and surgeries. Tina Barringer, a member of the affected family, expressed to Channel 2 Action News that their lives have been irrevocably altered, and they now must find a new sense of normalcy.
What is the hit-and-run code in Georgia?
The hit-and-run law in Georgia is codified under §40-6-270 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.). This code section outlines the legal duties of drivers involved in an accident, especially in situations where there is an injury, death or property damage.
It also specifies the legal penalties for failing to comply with these requirements, ranging from misdemeanor to felony charges, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries involved.
Am I required to stay at the scene after a minor accident in Georgia?
Under Georgia law § 40-6-270, a driver involved in an accident causing vehicle damage, injury or death must do the following:
- Stop at the accident scene or as close as possible.
- Provide their name, address and vehicle registration number.
- Show their operator’s license upon request, if a commercial driver.
- Offer reasonable assistance to any injured person, including arranging for medical transport if necessary.
- Ensure emergency services and law enforcement are contacted if the injured person is unable to communicate.
Drivers are required to remain at the scene until these obligations are met (even when vehicle damage is minor), ensuring minimal traffic obstruction.
What’s the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident in Georgia?
Legal consequences for failing to comply with Georgia’s hit-and-run law vary based on the accident’s severity.
For accidents causing non-serious injuries or vehicle damage, fleeing the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of $300 to $1,000 and/or up to 12 months imprisonment for the first offense, with increasing penalties for subsequent offenses within a 5-year period.
If the accident results in death or serious injury and the driver knowingly fails to stop and comply, it’s considered a felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison.
How do I report a hit-and-run in Georgia?
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident in Georgia, take the following steps to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights:
- Ensure you’re safe. First, move to a safe location, check for any injuries, and attend to any immediate medical needs.
- Contact law enforcement. As soon as possible, call 911 or the local police to report the incident. Georgia law requires you to report any traffic accident involving injury, death or significant property damage.
- Gather information. While waiting for the police, document as much information as you can about the incident, including the time, location and any details about the fleeing vehicle (like make, model, color, and any part of the license plate number). Also, look for possible witnesses and get their contact information.
- Take photos. If it’s safe to do so, take photos of the scene, including any damage to your vehicle, skid marks, road conditions and any other relevant details.
- File a police report. When the police arrive, provide them with all the information and evidence you have. Ensure you get a copy of the police report or the report number, as it will be essential for insurance claims.
- Notify your insurance company. Report the hit-and-run to your insurance company as soon as possible and provide them with the police report.
Remember, leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense in Georgia, and law enforcement takes hit-and-run incidents seriously. Prompt reporting can aid in the investigation and help bring the responsible party to justice.
Does insurance cover a hit-and-run in Georgia?
In Georgia, whether your insurance covers a hit-and-run incident largely depends on your specific insurance policy. Generally, the following types of coverage can be relevant in a hit-and-run situation:
- Collision coverage. This type of insurance can cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle after a hit-and-run, regardless of who is at fault. However, it’s important to note that collision coverage is optional and not included in a standard liability policy.
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. In Georgia, uninsured motorist coverage can provide protection in the event of a hit-and-run. This coverage typically helps with costs associated with injuries and, depending on your policy, may also cover property damage. Georgia law requires insurance companies to offer UM coverage, but drivers can opt out in writing.
- Medical payments coverage. If you have medical payments coverage, it can help with medical expenses for you and your passengers, regardless of fault.
It’s important to report the hit-and-run to your insurance company as soon as possible, as some policies may have specific time limits for reporting such incidents.
Always review your insurance policy to understand the extent of your coverage and any deductibles that may apply. In cases where you’re unsure of your coverage or need assistance with a claim, it’s advisable to consult with your insurance agent or an experienced car accident attorney.
Will my insurance go up after a hit-and-run accident?
Whether your insurance rates increase after being the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Georgia depends on your insurance company’s policies and the specifics of your insurance coverage.
Typically though, if you’re not at fault in an accident, including a hit-and-run, your insurance rates should not increase.
However, this isn’t always the case. For example, if you have a history of claims, even if they were not your fault, your insurance provider might view you as a higher risk, which could potentially affect your rates.
Can you sue for a hit-and-run in Georgia?
Yes, if you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Georgia, you have the right to pursue legal action against the driver who fled the scene, provided that the driver can be identified. In such a lawsuit, you can seek compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
However, the success of a lawsuit depends on several factors:
- Identifying the other driver. The biggest challenge in hit-and-run cases is often identifying the driver who fled the scene. Law enforcement efforts and any available evidence, like eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage or vehicle descriptions, can play a crucial role in this.
- Establishing liability. If the driver is identified, you must prove that they were at fault for the accident. This involves showing that the driver’s actions led to the accident and your resulting injuries or damages. It’s important to note that in Georgia, a plaintiff (the injured party) can’t recover any compensation if it’s determined they were 50% or more at fault for the accident.
- Insurance coverage. If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, your ability to recover damages might be limited. In such cases, your own uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, if you have it, may provide compensation.
Consulting with an injury attorney can often be beneficial after a hit-and-run accident. An experienced lawyer can help navigate the legal process, gather necessary evidence, negotiate with insurance companies and represent you in court if necessary.
What is the statute of limitations on a hit-and-run in Georgia?
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident is generally 2 years from the date of the accident. It’s important to initiate legal proceedings within this timeframe to ensure your chance at compensation.
Were you the victim of a hit-and-run in Georgia? Get help from an experienced Atlanta injury attorney.
Dealing with the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident can be a stressful and confusing experience, particularly when facing injuries and complex legal and insurance issues. At Gerber & Holder, our skilled Atlanta injury attorneys can provide expert guidance, evaluate your case, and help you secure the compensation you deserve. Let us handle the legal details so you can focus on your recovery.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you recover maximum compensation for your hit-and-run claim.
Additional Laws Relevant to Cyclists – Home | Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.gahighwaysafety.org/additional-laws-relevant-to-cyclists/
Code of Georgia. (n.d.). www.fultoncountyga.gov. Retrieved November 16, 2023, from https://www.fultoncountyga.gov/commissioners/clerk-to-the-commission/code-of-georgia
Hit-and-Runs Killed 17,531 People in the Last Decade, With the Most Fatalities in California. (n.d.). ValuePenguin. https://www.valuepenguin.com/most-dangerous-roads-hit-and-runs
Pedestrian-related deaths on the rise nationally and in Georgia. (2023). 11Alive.com. https://www.11alive.com/article/news/local/pedestrian-safety-month-deaths-on-the-rise-georgia/85-b3c530e0-a0c1-4532-bc7a-46ed030819e4