On the night of July 9, a man was crossing Potranco Road when he was struck in the crosswalk by a pickup truck, which then drove away without stopping to render aid. Such action is a crime in Texas, but it can also be grounds for a civil lawsuit, depending on the nature of the specific situation. If you have been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, but obtaining it can be difficult without the right attorney.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Despite the law criminalizing the failure to stop and render aid (FSRA), many drivers who do this still wind up leaving the scene, for a variety of reasons, not least of all the fear of potential consequences. Others may be intoxicated or under the influence of another type of substance, or be in some other type of state that makes them unaware they struck a person at all (this is not a defense to a charge of FSRA, but it does occur). Regardless, many hit-and-run drivers are not found immediately, which can be a problem for the police and in some situations, may actually delay the victim’s ability to obtain medical care, if the accident occurs in a rural area.
Criminal hit-and-run is referred to in Texas as leaving the scene of an accident or failing to stop and render aid. Leaving the scene of an accident which has caused personal injury or property damage is a third-degree felony in Texas, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Leaving the scene of a fatal accident is a second-degree felony, with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. These are not inconsequential crimes, and they are fairly simple to prosecute as long as one has the relevant person in custody.
Negligence Action May Be Possible
Regardless of whether police decide to charge a hit-and-run driver with a crime, in many situations a civil suit for damages is possible to file against the driver. The standard by which someone can be held liable in civil court is lower than that needed to be found guilty in criminal court (“beyond a reasonable doubt”), and civil suits do not result in jail time, rather in fines or other ways to make the plaintiff whole. In order to prove a defendant liable for a hit-and-run accident, three criteria must be established, keeping in mind the duty to exercise due care that all motorists have while operating their vehicles: (1) it must be shown that the duty has been breached – that is, that reasonable care was not exercised; (2) the breach must be shown to have been directly due to the defendant’s conduct and not some other intervening cause; and (3) the defendant’s breach of duty must be shown to have caused the plaintiff substantial harm.
That said, it is important to be aware of two things while filing a negligence suit against a hit-and-run driver. First, Texas follows a modified comparative fault rule, meaning that if you are found more than 50 percent at fault for your own injuries, you may not recover. Second, unlike in many negligence cases, there is a possibility of punitive damages being awarded in hit-and-run cases, especially if the defendant actually left the scene of the accident without stopping to assist. Juries generally disapprove of such reckless behavior, and if it can be proved that the defendant’s behavior was fraudulent, malicious, or grossly negligent, they may award punitive damages to the plaintiff.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance Today
While the condition of the injured man on Potranco Road is not known as of this writing, if you are injured in a hit-and-run, it can mean significant impairment and injury, and you may be able to show that it was due to someone else’s negligence. If you have questions about a hit-and-run, our skilled New Braunfels auto accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm may be able to assist. Call our offices today to set up an initial consultation.