Can I Sue a Hit-and-Run Driver?

Paramedics assisting a bicyclist after a hit-and-run accident.

The only thing worse than ending up in a car accident is when the responsible driver takes off. When you’re the victim of a hit-and-run crash, recovering car accident injury compensation can be a challenge. It’s important to contact an experienced hit-and-run accident attorney so they can get started on your case right away.  

Legal Options After a Hit-and-Run Accident

You have two basic legal options after a hit-and-run — track down the other driver or try to recover compensation through your own insurance policy. Both of these options come with unique challenges. Working with a hit-and-run accident lawyer is often essential for recovering the compensation you need. 

Understanding Hit-and-Run Cases

All drivers have certain obligations after a car accident. In Colorado, drivers are required to immediately report any accident that involves: 

  • Any type of injury
  • Any form of property damage
  • Serious bodily injury
  • Death

Since most car accidents result in at least minor property damage, most accidents in Colorado must be reported. Even if the outcome of a crash means that reporting isn’t required, taking off from the scene is still a crime. 

Identifying the Hit-and-Run Driver

The best course of action after a hit-and-run accident is to call the police and then contact a hit-and-run accident lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer’s first course of action after a hit-and-run accident involves trying to track down the other driver. 

Any information you can offer helps make this task easier. A lawyer can obtain copies of traffic camera footage. They’ll also investigate whether local business or home security cameras recorded footage of the other vehicle. Any identifying information your lawyer obtains can be used to track down the vehicle’s owner using the DMV database. 

Civil vs. Criminal Action in a Hit-and-Run Case

Committing a hit-and-run is a crime. If police or your lawyer manage to identify the other driver, they’ll face legal penalties for leaving the scene. If anyone was killed or seriously injured in the crash, penalties will likely include criminal charges and jail time. 

Unfortunately, criminal hit-and-run charges do little to reimburse the injured victim. To obtain injury compensation, you’ll need to file an insurance claim or consider filing a lawsuit in civil court. 

Insurance Coverage for a Hit-and-Run

Colorado drivers are only required to carry liability coverage. If you only have the required minimum, it’s difficult to recover insurance compensation for a hit-and-run claim through your own policy. Ideally, your lawyer will track down the other driver and submit a claim to their driver’s insurance company. 

If the other driver can’t be identified, your lawyer will review your driver’s insurance policy. They’ll work to determine whether your coverage allows you to obtain compensation by filing a claim with your own insurer. 

Legal Recourse by Filing a Hit-and-Run Lawsuit

If you need to recover injury compensation, you may be wondering, “Can I sue a hit-and-run driver?” If your lawyer can track down the other driver, filing a hit-and-run lawsuit may be an option, but it’s often not necessary. 

Instead, your lawyer will collect evidence and file a claim with the other driver’s insurer. Lawyers usually only recommend a lawsuit if the insurance company doesn’t offer a settlement that covers your medical treatment and other injury costs. 

Steps To Take After a Hit-and-Run

How you respond to a hit-and-run accident can significantly impact how your case unfolds. As soon as a hit-and-run happens, you should call the police. As soon as possible, write down any identifying details you can remember. Information that can help identify the other driver includes: 

  • Full or partial license plate number
  • State and type of license plate
  • Vehicle’s make, model, and color
  • Vehicle damage
  • Identifying features like bumper stickers
  • Any information about the other driver

Unfortunately, police departments are often overburdened, which means you can’t rely on the police to track down the other driver. Instead, it’s best to contact a hit-and-run attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer has the time and resources to give your case dedicated attention. 

Time Limits for Obtaining Hit-and-Run Compensation

Colorado state law gives you two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit for hit-and-run compensation. Any case takes time, as a lawyer must collect evidence, build a case, and attempt insurance negotiations before filing a lawsuit. 

When a case involves a hit-and-run, you have even less time. You don’t know how long it will take for your lawyer to identify the other driver. That means it’s particularly important to call a lawyer as soon as possible after a hit-and-run crash. 

Legal Assistance With a Hit-and-Run Case

If you’re serious about obtaining hit-and-run compensation, working with a hit-and-run accident lawyer is vital. Even with a lawyer’s help, identifying the other driver is never guaranteed. However, if you don’t have an attorney on your case, your chances of recovering compensation are very slim. 

Most hit-and-run lawyers don’t charge fees unless they successfully help you recover compensation. That means you don’t have anything to lose by contacting a lawyer, but you have a lot to gain. 

How Bachus & Schanker Can Help 

Bachus & Schanker is a leader in Colorado personal injury law. Our Victim’s Advocate group works with injury victims who have been harmed through criminal acts, such as a hit-and-run. 

Our experience with the police and judicial systems puts us in the unique position of advocating for victims while fighting to ensure those who have wronged them are held accountable for their crimes. 

If you or a loved one have suffered injury or death in a hit-and-run, Bachus & Schanker possesses the resources and compassion to help bring your case to justice. 

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Sources:

CRS § 13-80-102.

​​CRS § 42-4-1606.

Mandatory Automobile Insurance in Colorado.