West Chester Hit and Run Lawyer
Leaving the scene of an accident, commonly known as a “hit and run,” is a severe criminal offense in Pennsylvania that can result in imprisonment, fines, probation, and driver’s license suspension. The severity of the penalties varies depending on the extent of the damage caused by the accident. If there is only property damage, the penalties will be less severe, but if someone is injured, the consequences can be severe.
At Wilk Law, our West Chester hit-and-run attorneys have extensive experience representing clients facing charges for leaving an accident scene. If you find yourself accused of leaving the scene of an accident, it is crucial to seek legal representation as soon as possible. We offer a prompt case evaluation to discuss your legal matter and help determine how to build your case.
We understand that being charged with leaving the scene of an accident can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. That’s why our team of legal professionals is dedicated to helping you navigate the legal process while protecting your rights. We are committed to providing you with personalized attention and aggressive representation to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
What Is “Leaving the Scene”?
“Leaving the scene” of an accident is a legal term that refers to the act of a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident failing to remain at the scene of the accident. In many jurisdictions, leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense, and the severity of the crime can depend on the circumstances of the accident.
Leaving the scene of an accident without stopping to provide aid or exchanging contact and insurance information with the other parties involved is often referred to as a “hit and run” offense. Hit and runs can lead to criminal charges, including fines, license suspension or revocation, and even imprisonment in severe cases, especially if someone is injured or killed due to the accident.
However, we understand that it’s natural to feel confused, afraid, or emotional, making it challenging to remember everything you need to do to protect your rights. The following are eight critical steps to take after an accident in Chester County:
- Immediately stop and stay at the scene until the police arrive.
- Check on all of the passengers and the other driver and call 911 if needed.
- Call the West Chester police department, even if it’s a very minor accident. You always want to call the police and stay at the accident scene until they take their report.
- Exchange information with the other driver.
- Talk to any witnesses you see and get their contact information.
- Take pictures and videos of your injuries and damages.
- As soon as you’re able, contact your insurance company.
- Consider hiring an experienced West Chester hit-and-run lawyer to ensure you receive adequate compensation.
How Often Do Guilty Drivers Leave the Scene of an Accident?
Hit-and-run collisions occur when someone involved in a crash leaves the scene without offering help or information to the others involved or fails to report the collision properly. These types of crashes can cause physical and emotional harm to the victims and social and economic burdens. They can also worsen the situation by delaying medical attention for the victims. In addition, hit-and-run violations are criminal offenses, which can cause extra work for law enforcement and make it harder for families to get the help they need.
Unfortunately, AAA found that there were 1,980 fatal hit-and-run crashes in 2016, which resulted in 2,049 fatalities. This is also the highest number of recorded hit-and-run fatalities since the NHTSA first started tracking statistics on accident fatalities in 1975. They also found that, on average, fatalities from this type of accident have increased by 7.2% each year since 2009. Additionally, in 2020, the NHTSA found a pedestrian died every 81 minutes as a result of a collision with a vehicle.
Several factors contribute to hit-and-run accidents, including following too closely, distracted driving, and the time of day. Additionally, how busy a roadway is and the location both factor in. Specific places where hit-and-run collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists are more likely to happen in West Chester, PA, may include:
- High Street – This busy downtown street has heavy pedestrian traffic and numerous shops and restaurants, making it a potential location for pedestrian hit-and-runs.
- Matlack Street – This residential street has a mix of single-family homes and multi-unit apartments and limited visibility due to parked cars, which could pose a danger to both pedestrians and cyclists in hit-and-run accidents.
- West Chester University – The campus has numerous pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, and high traffic volume, increasing the chances of an accident or fatality.
- West Chester Bypass (U.S. Route 202) – This major highway runs through the eastern part of West Chester and can have heavy traffic and high speeds, increasing the risk of accidents and hit-and-runs.
- West Chester Pike (PA Route 3) – This major east-west road can have heavy traffic and a mix of commercial and residential areas, increasing the risk of pedestrian and cyclist hit-and-runs.
Pennsylvania Hit and Run Laws
In Pennsylvania, leaving the scene of an accident (also known as a hit-and-run) is a severe criminal offense. Under Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, any driver involved in an accident must:
- Stop their vehicle at the accident scene or as close to the scene as possible without obstructing traffic.
- Provide their name, address, and registration number of the vehicle they were driving and show their driver’s license to anyone involved in the accident or to any police officer at the scene.
- Provide reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the accident, including taking the injured person to a doctor or hospital if necessary.
Failure to adhere to these requirements can result in criminal charges, fines, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the accident and injuries involved.
Common Hit and Run Scenarios
As we’ve proven, hit-and-run accidents are common. Many drivers choose to flee the accident scene because they’re driving a stolen vehicle, are intoxicated, or have no auto insurance. Some drivers may have warrants or are afraid to face legal consequences after the accident. Other times, the driver may not even realize they hit someone. The most common hit-and-run scenarios in Pennsylvania include:
- Bicyclists who get hit by a vehicle or by the side mirror
- Bikers riding on interstates and getting hit by passing cars
- Distracted drivers using their phones or talking to and looking at their passengers
- Drivers who stole a car or drivers running from the police after they commit a crime
- Intoxicated drivers or those driving under the influence leaving the scene to avoid arrest
- Pedestrians on the side or shoulder who get struck by a passing vehicle
- Reckless drivers who have no regard for innocent parties
How to Identify a Driver Who Has Left the Scene of the Accident
It is essential to contact the police as soon as possible after a hit-and-run accident, as any evidence may disappear over time. An experienced hit-and-run accident lawyer can help gather evidence and work with law enforcement to identify the driver who fled the scene. However, these are some of the ways you or your lawyer can identify the driver who fled the scene during a hit-and-run:
- Nearby Cameras – At intersections, businesses, or witnesses with cameras may have photos or videos of the crash or the at-fault driver’s vehicle. If they get a picture of the license plate, the driver will likely be easy for the police to discover.
- Phone Records – The police can pull phone records of the at-fault driver and use them to track where they are. As long as the phone has power and is on, it’ll ping cell phone towers as its owner moves. The phone company will use this information to know precisely where the phone was at the time of the accident and directly after it.
- Vehicle Damage – Vehicle damage is one crucial clue the police can use to find the hit-and-run driver. Paint could have chipped, scraped off, or been left as a residue on the victim’s car or on the road. The driver may take their damaged vehicle to a body shop, and the shop may report it if they notice it matches the damage in the police report. Additionally, the at-fault driver’s friends or family may report the damage to the local police.
- Witness Accounts – If there were witnesses to the accident, they can provide information about the driver and the vehicle that fled the scene. Witness accounts get documented in the police report, and your West Chester hit-and-run attorney can talk to the witnesses to gather further information.
What If the Accident Involved an Uninsured Motorist?
If you own a car in Pennsylvania, the law dictates that you must have auto insurance coverage. However, you can buy uninsured motorist coverage and bundle it into your policy. This coverage will give you benefits for medical costs, personal injuries, out-of-pocket expenses, lost time at work, and pain and suffering if you’re the victim of a car accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance.
To make a claim to get compensation for your injuries, you first have to prove that you were part of a hit-and-run accident. Your car insurance company won’t just take your word for it; you must provide evidence.
Most Pennsylvania car insurance policies have a provision that dictates you must report hit-and-run accidents to the local police right after the accident. You usually have 30 days to file this report. However, you should note that many Center County and Pennsylvania police agencies won’t issue a police report for an accident after the driver leaves the scene. So, you have to report it to the State College police before you leave.
Even if you don’t think you sustained any injuries in your accident, you want to report it because your insurance company might deny your property damage claim for your vehicle without a report from the State College police as evidence of the extent of the damage.
How Much Is My Hit and Run Case Worth?
Every accident is different, and broad ranges of damage award amounts are possible. They range from thousands to millions, depending on your circumstances. Our legal team will look at your case factors to help you figure out what your lawsuit is worth, and we’ll take into account the following:
- Defendant’s assets
- Insurance coverage availability
- Monetary loss amount
- Responsibilities and family situation
- The recklessness and conduct of the at-fault party
- Whether there is a death involved
- Your injury extent, type, effects, and permanence
- Your loss of earning capacity
- Your physical condition, health, and age before the accident
- Your work situation and whether or not you can return
Do I Need an Attorney or Can I Handle My Own Case?
An experienced attorney can help you file your lawsuit against the other driver, represent you in court, and seek adequate compensation for your injuries. There are several reasons why you want to retain a West Chester hit-and-run attorney after your accident.
For example, if the at-fault driver flees the scene before police arrive and you can’t locate them, you may need to file a claim against your auto insurance company. This process can be complicated without legal representation to negotiate and talk to your insurer. Your attorney will step in on your behalf to make sure you get the most compensation possible for your injuries. In addition, if they find the other driver, your lawyer can help you file a claim to sue them and pursue compensation in court.
Serving West Chester, Pennsylvania
West Chester, PA, is a borough in Chester County, known for its charming downtown, historic architecture and beautiful parks. It is the county seat and has a population of around 20,000 people.
One of the unique things about West Chester is its well-preserved downtown area, home to various independent shops, restaurants, and cafes. The area is pedestrian-friendly, and visitors can stroll down the tree-lined streets, taking in the historic architecture and enjoying the small-town atmosphere.
The West Chester Railroad is a popular attraction that takes visitors on a scenic train ride through the picturesque countryside. The railroad operates vintage steam and diesel-powered trains, and passengers can choose from various themed excursions, including holiday-themed rides and murder mystery dinners.
The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center is another significant attraction in West Chester that showcases the history of rotary-wing aviation. The museum features a variety of helicopters, including early experimental models and military aircraft, as well as interactive exhibits and educational programs.
The Chester County History Museum is a must-visit destination in West Chester for history buffs. The museum features exhibits on the county’s rich history, including its role in the American Revolution and the Underground Railroad. In addition, visitors can see artifacts such as antique furniture, Civil War memorabilia, and old photographs.
Other notable attractions in West Chester include the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, which takes visitors on a tour of local wineries, and the Longwood Gardens, a stunning botanical garden with acres of beautiful landscapes, fountains, and greenhouses.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Lawyers
Wilk Law is a reputable law firm based in West Chester, known for its expertise in hit-and-run cases. Our team of experienced attorneys, led by Tyler Wilk, is dedicated to helping clients navigate the legal process and achieve the best possible outcome. Whether you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident or facing charges related to one, Wilk Law has the knowledge and resources to provide effective representation. If you need legal assistance in West Chester, consider reaching out for a consultation.
In addition to Pottstown, some of the locations our legal team serves includes West Chester, Coatesville, Downingtown, Philadelphia, Phoenixville, Berwyn, Devon, Exton, Frazer, and more. Contact us today to book a free consultation.