FM 620, near the Mansfield Dam bridge, was the site of a hit-and-run accident in the early hours of Wednesday, April 11, leaving a Round Rock man in critical condition. The car that hit the man did not stay at the scene, leaving Round Rock PD little choice but to treat the accident as a hit-and-run, which is a crime. If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may be able to obtain civil compensation from the driver, as well as their possibly facing criminal charges depending on the situation.
Multiple Reasons for Hit and Runs
Hit-and-run accidents occur much more often than people might like to admit, for several different reasons – some understandable, some unreasonable, but very few excuses are reasons to avoid liability. Even if you did not intend to hit someone, Texas law holds that you have a duty to stop and aid them if you do hit someone – thus, failure to do so is punishable by law in all but the most unusual circumstances. Even something pressing – for example, striking a pedestrian and failing to stop to render aid because you were driving your pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth – will still give rise to civil liability and/or criminal charges, depending on the situation.
Hit-and-run accidents have been on the rise in the U.S. as a whole in recent years, posting higher and higher numbers. Texas has taken action by closing legal loopholes for those who hit and run; in 2013 the sentence guidelines for offenses like leaving the scene of an accident which caused death or injury were raised, going from third to second-degree felonies. A new law criminalizing failure to stop and render aid was also added.
Charges and Civil Suits
Texas criminal law may lead a prosecutor to seek criminal charges if the offense is severe enough – generally if there is a death or severe bodily injury as a result of the accident. However, even if you are not criminally charged for your actions, the injured person may seek compensation in civil court. The standards of proof are somewhat different in civil court than in criminal court – in criminal court, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, while in civil court a mere preponderance of the evidence is enough (in other words, in civil court, the fact finder must be more than 50 percent sure that the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff to prevail).
It is important to keep in mind, however, that if your criminal charges are resolved before your civil liability allegations, you may wind up having to defend yourself much more quickly than thought. This is because Texas law honors a concept called negligence per se, in which the violation of a law designed to protect a specific class of people can be used as proof of negligence – most commonly, this has been applied to seatbelt laws, but it can be applied to any law of this nature, including failure to stop and render aid. Normally, in civil court, a plaintiff must prove the defendant was negligent, but if negligence per se can be shown, they simply have to point to the broken law and it means that half their argument has been made for them.
Contact Our Auto Accident Attorneys
While as of this writing, the Mansfield Dam bridge victim appears to be surviving, he will have a long road ahead. If you have found yourself in a similar position, calling a knowledgeable attorney can help you decide how best to proceed. Our skilled New Braunfels hit-and-run accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm will work with you to ensure that you are able to focus on getting back on your feet. Contact us today to set up an appointment.