Harsh penalties await uninsured drivers who flee a hit and run auto accident; crash victims are entitled to No-Fault PIP benefits
There has been another recent tragedy, a fatal hit and run crash in Port Huron, Michigan. Police are looking for the suspect, who is said to be not at fault. However, fleeing the scene of a car accident is against the law.
Hit-and-run auto accidents comprise approximately 10 percent of all Michigan crashes, according to the Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. In cities such as Detroit, Pontiac and Flint, where it’s estimated that as many as 50 percent of drivers are driving cars uninsured, the numbers are substantially higher.
Take a look at our updated blog post on Detroit hit and run crashes from October 2013 for more information.
Here are 7 important things to know about hit and run auto accidents:
1. To avoid being accused of “hitting-and-running,” you must remain at the scene.
If you have been involved in an accident, then you must stop at the scene of the accident and remain there until you have accomplished the following:
o Provide your name and address, vehicle registration number, and name and address of the vehicle’s owner to the police, the “individual struck” or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which you collided’
o Show your driver’s license to the police, the “individual struck” or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which you collided; and
o Help get medical aid for any injured persons.
o The only narrow and limited exception to the “remain” at the scene rule is if you have “a reasonable and honest belief that remaining at the accident scene will result in further harm,” in which case you must immediately report the accident to the police and provide the above information. (MCL 257.617(1); 257.619)
2. Hit and run resulting in death.
Hit-and-run drivers who have caused a car accident that results in the death of another individual are guilty of a felony and can be sent to prison for up to 15 years and/or fined up to $10,000. (MCL 257.617(3))
3. Hit and run resulting in serious injury or death.
Hit and run drivers who have been involved in an accident that results in serious impairment of a body function or death are guilty of a felony and can be sent to prison for up to 5 years and/or fined up to $5,000. (MCL 257.617(2))
4. Hit and run resulting in personal injury.
Hit and run drivers who have been involved in an accident that results in injury to any individual are guilty of a misdemeanor and can be sent to jail for up to 1 year and/or fined up to $1,000. (MCL 257.617a)
5. Hit and run resulting in vehicle damage.
Hit and run drivers who have been involved in an accident that results in damage to a vehicle operated by or attended by “any individual” are guilty of a misdemeanor and can be sent to jail for up to 90 days and/or fined up to $100. (MCL 257.618)
6. Hit and run victims can collect Michigan No-Fault benefits.
Even if an at-fault hit and run driver is never caught, his or her victims can generally still collect Michigan No-Fault PIP (personal injury protection) insurance benefits through their own No-Fault insurance company. They can do so through their spouse’s No Fault insurer; a resident relative’s No Fault insurer; the No Fault insurer for the owner, registrant or driver of the vehicle the victim was occupying; or through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan by filing an application for No-Fault benefits with the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility. (MCL 500.3114(1) and (4); 500.3115(1); 500.3171)
7. Hit and run injury victims can still recover for their injuries and pain and suffering if they have ‘Uninsured Motorist’ Coverage.
I write and speak often about the importance of having uninsured motorist coverage. In some cities, such as Detroit, where 50 percent of drivers are driving without insurance, I feel it is almost criminal negligence when an insurance agent does not offer this coverage to people buying insurance. But the fact remains, if you are involved in a serious car accident with a hit and run driver and the other driver is uninsured and/or drives away without leaving information to identify the vehicle driver and/or owner, then uninsured motorist coverage is the ONLY way you will be able to recover financially for your injuries and your pain and suffering from being injured.
If the at-fault hit and run driver is never caught and identified, then the hit and run victim has no one to sue to recover compensation for the victim’s accident-related pain and suffering. The only option left for a hit and run victim to recover pain and suffering compensation is if the victim is covered by an uninsured motorist (UM) policy. Because the law treats an unidentified at-fault hit and run driver effectively as an “uninsured motorist,” a UM policy (subject to its policy limit) would see to it that the hit and run victim receives the pain and suffering compensation that the hit and run driver would have been obligated to pay had he or she been apprehended and identified.
Statute of limitations for hit and run
Generally speaking, the statute of limitations in Michigan to sue in civil court for pain and suffering compensation arising from a car accident is 3 years. (MCL 600.5805(2))
However, the statute of limitations for bringing a criminal prosecution for a hit-and-run is within 6 years after the offense was committed. (MCL 767.24(10))
Our attorneys send our condolences to the family of the Port Huron accident victim.
– Steven Gursten is a head of Michigan Auto Law and one of top accident attorneys in the country. He is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve frequently writes and speaks on safe driving and Michigan auto laws, and is available for comment.
Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 or to speak with one of our accident attorneys today.