According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 11 percent of all motor vehicle crashes involve one driver who flees the scene of the accident. About 1,500 people are killed each year in hit-and-run accidents, 60 percent of which are pedestrians, the AAA Foundation reports. If you or a loved one were recently injured in a hit-and-run accident, you may be able to file a claim with your insurance carrier to cover your damages.
Iowa’s Laws Regarding Hit-and-Run Accidents
Fleeing the scene of an accident is illegal in Iowa. According to Iowa §321.261, if a driver is involved in an accident that causes physical harm to someone and flees the scene, he or she is only guilty of a misdemeanor.
If the victim was killed in the accident, then the fleeing driver could be punished with a class "D" felony. Hit-and-run victims have another form of legal recourse if the suspect is caught and apprehended; they or their families are legally entitled to file an injury or wrongful death lawsuit against them.
What to Do (and Not to Do) if You’re in a Hit-and-Run Accident
If you are in an accident and the other driver flees the scene, here’s the basic recommended protocol:
- call 911;
- provide the police with information and obtain a copy of the report;
- try to jot down any identifying information about the other driver (the make, model, color, etc. of the car, and anything you recall about the driver);
- collect contact info for any witnesses of the accident; and
- call your insurance company to report your accident, see what your coverage is and determine if you can file a claim.
What you do NOT want to do after a hit-and-run accident is an attempt to track down the fleeing driver. In many cases, drivers flee the scene either because they are intoxicated, have a criminal record, recently committed a crime or don’t have insurance. Chasing a suspect will only put you at risk. Let the police handle it.
Filing a Car Accident Claim for a Hit-and-Run Accident
Some drivers carry uninsured motorist coverage (UM). This type of insurance is optional in Iowa. It covers your damages should you be in a crash that involved a driver who either fled the scene or has no insurance.
If you have this type of insurance, you can speak with your insurance company and file a claim. If you don’t have UM, you’ll be responsible for your own damages, unless the law can track down the other driver. Health insurance may cover some medical costs, however, once you meet your deductible.
Discuss All Your Legal Options with an Attorney
When you or your loved one suffered injuries in a car accident, there may be several avenues you can take to obtain restitution. Call Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines for a FREE legal consultation at (888) 435-9886. We can discuss the specifics of your case and help you determine your legal options.