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Driver brutally attacked after hitting child in Detroit raises safety concern: Do you stop after a crash in a bad neighborhood?

April 4, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Steve UtashI often write about the tragic consequences of hit and run accidents, and the prevalence of such accidents in Detroit  due to unlighted streets, uninsured drivers and first responders who often come at an extreme delay.

Yesterday, a 54-year-old man named Steven Utash  struck a 10-year-old boy with his pickup truck in Detroit.

But this man did the right thing. He didn’t hit the boy and run. He stopped to check on the boy at Morang and McKinney. But when he did stop and get out of his vehicle, he was brutally attacked and robbed by a crowd of about a dozen men, according to a recent story in The Detroit News, “Daughter of motorist beaten by crowd says family is ‘waiting for him to wake up.’

Utash, of Clinton Township had such severe head injuries that he has been put into a medically induced coma. The boy has been released from the hospital with a broken leg.

This awful incident is bringing up a heated discussion about what’s the right thing to do if you’ve hit someone – taking into account the law, the health of the victim and your own safety.

If a driver hits a pedestrian – or in in any accident involving an injury – the driver has a duty to immediately report the accident to police and remain at the scene.

But not at the expense of your own safety.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy advised in The Detroit News:

“If the driver is in danger at the scene, he or she should immediately call 911 to request that EMS assist the victim and so the police can investigate the scene. The driver should drive to nearest police station to report the situation.”

As an auto accident lawyer, I agree with Prosecutor Worthy.  A motorist who has “a reasonable and honest belief” of being in danger at the scene, such as in a bad neighborhood, has a right to go to the nearest police station to report the incident.

Failure to stop at a scene involving serious injury or death carries a penalty of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. But if you report the accident and go to the nearest police station, you should be protected from the penalties of a hit and run accident.

Hit and run deaths in Detroit account for nearly 40% of the fatal hit and runs in the entire state, according to the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning.

Related information:

Top 7 facts about hit and run accidents 

Uninsured drivers in Detroit: How this has become a civil rights issue

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