On the night of July 3, 2017, a disabled woman in an electric wheelchair was struck by a car while crossing Blanco Road in San Antonio. The driver did not stop to assist the woman, driving away and leaving her in the street. As of this writing, she is still hospitalized, but the important thing to note is that hit-and-run accidents do happen, and they differ significantly from the average automobile accident, not least of all because a hit and run may lead to criminal charges as well as civil liability.
Hit and Run Penalties Are Stiff
Because Texas is so vast and has so many roads and drivers, its laws tend to treat traffic laws and breaking them as fairly serious offenses. Indeed, the Texas law that deals with leaving the scene of an accident (also sometimes known as failure to stop and render aid or FRSA) was strengthened in 2014, taking FRSA from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony, increasing the potential jail time and fine, if the driver was operating under the influence. There is no way to tell if the Blanco Road driver was intoxicated, but it is a factor one must consider.
The average sentence if convicted of FRSA depends on the degree of damage caused to property and whether or not anyone was injured or killed. It is not unheard of to receive probation if you cooperate with the police and show remorse, but it is more likely to receive jail time (not necessarily prison time), even as a first offense. You will also likely be asked to pay a fine – and it can be a substantial one – and you may be required to attend counseling, but those kinds of rules are more individualized, and more likely to be handed down in specific cases, rather than adopted across the board.
Criminal Law and Negligence Per Se
In criminal law, it is the prosecutor who serves as the state’s attorney, which means that you do not need to hire your own. It is in civil law that having a knowledgeable attorney on your side is all but required. However, sometimes criminal law can influence a civil proceeding, and vice versa. One way this can be seen is dealing with the doctrine of negligence per se. This is a doctrine often used to show that someone should be held civilly liable, and it is done by showing that a statute was violated in a way that causes injury to someone the law was designed to protect.
For example, if someone who is building a house failed to use proper supports for the walls, and the homeowner was injured as a direct result, that contractor could easily be on the proverbial hook for negligence per se, because building codes are designed to protect people from issues caused by exactly this behavior. In the instant case, the driver who hit the disabled woman clearly left the scene of an accident, which is a crime. It would be compounded if the driver turned out to be intoxicated. The driver has, however, broken state law, and a plaintiff would likely be able to allege negligence per se. If such an allegation is accepted, it means that two elements of a negligence case are already stipulated. That makes everyone’s life easier.
Call the Auto Accident Lawyers Today
Our knowledgeable New Braunfels car accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm can sit down with you and discuss what your options are if you or a loved one has been injured by a hit-and-run driver. You may be entitled not just to closure, but possibly to civil compensation. Contact the offices today to set up an initial appointment.