“Almost 500 hit-and-run incidents have been reported to North Carolina Highway Patrol this year. Some are fender benders, but others involve injury or death.”
That quote from a WGHP Fox-8 news report on May 7, 2014, jumped out at me. As a personal injury attorney whose law firm has helped hundreds of residents of the Tar Heel State receive compensation from at-fault drivers to cover medical bills, lost wages and, sometimes, lifelong disabilities and therapy, few things trouble me more than knowing that car crash victims may be unable to hold the people who harmed them accountable.
Chapter 20 of the North Carolina General Statutes specifies strict criminal penalties for a driver who flees the scene of an accident he or she has caused. Perhaps even more importantly for people injured by negligent and reckless drivers, Chapter 1 of the state code lays out rules and procedures for filing civil lawsuits to ensure responsible parties are held financially liable for the harm, damage and pain and suffering they caused.
An NC state trooper interviewed by the television station explained that most hit-and-run drivers law enforcement personnel track down offer excuses like lacking insurance and wanting to avoid arrest on existing warrants. All such people already in legal and financial trouble actually accomplish is making their situations worse. Courts and juries are usually tougher on hit-and-run drivers than on people who stay around to answer first responders’ questions and, possibly, offer assistance to injured victims.
“If you flee a collision scene, no matter what the injury is, you’re looking at a felony. So that’s more jail time, more severe penalties,” Master Trooper Chris Knox told a reporter.
Too few people appear to understand this. Citing just one recent example, North Carolina State Sen. Sen. Bill Rabon was charged on May 6 with causing a hit-and-run wreck in a Wilmington parking lot. Only minor property damage occurred, but the negative consequences for Rabon’s political career could be severe and long-lasting.
When injuries, or even deaths, result from hit-and-run accidents, the people who caused the collisions must be found and must be made to pay the costs.