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November 4, 2020 | Car Accident
Hit-and-run auto accidents are especially devastating for victims. Not only did someone else negligently or recklessly cause the accident, but that person also avoided responsibility for damages by fleeing the scene. A hit-and-run could cause life-changing injuries without the victim being able to seek financial compensation for related medical expenses. Lawmakers in West Virginia are taking a stand against hit-and-run accidents by passing bills such as Erin’s Law, which could lead to a fine of $5,000 for perpetrators.
Erin’s Law is the product of advocation by the victim’s parents, after whom the law is named Erin Keener. Erin Keener was only 21 years old when a hit-and-run driver tragically took her life. Erin was standing outside of Vincent’s Bar when an unknown driver struck her and dragged her to the bottom of the driveway, where her friends later found her. She passed away in a hospital in Morgantown three days later from serious injuries. The fatal hit-and-run accident happened in 2005 and remains unsolved.
Four years later, in 2009, lawmakers passed Erin’s Law. West Virginia Code 17C-4-1 requires all drivers involved in accidents that cause injuries or deaths to immediately stop at the scene and remain until they have completed certain requirements. The only exception is if the person leaves the scene to obtain emergency help for the injured person. Intentionally violating Erin’s Law is a misdemeanor to felony crime that can come with $1,000 to $5,000 in fines and up to five years in a state correctional facility. The penalties will depend on the severity of the victim’s injuries.
A driver must complete the requirements at the scene of a car accident to render aid and provide information. If anyone has any injuries, the other driver involved must sufficiently render aid or reasonable assistance. This may mean carrying or driving the victim to a hospital for emergency treatment or calling 911 to request an ambulance. The driver must also remain at the scene long enough to provide his or her name, phone number, vehicle identification number, vehicle description, proof of insurance, and insurance policy number to the other driver or the police.
Under Erin’s Law, fleeing the scene without exchanging information or helping victims after a car accident is illegal in West Virginia. Crashes involving damage to any vehicle, including a parked vehicle, require a driver to stop and leave his or her information. Crashes that cause injuries also come with the requirement to render aid. Anyone who commits a hit-and-run could face serious criminal charges and consequences.
In addition to these penalties, the hit-and-run driver may also lose his or her driving privileges. A hit-and-run conviction can lead to license suspension for up to one year from the date of conviction or the date of release from jail – whichever is later. A driver should assume an accident causes injuries if it involves a pedestrian, occupant ejection, crash damage that intrudes inside the cab or a vehicle leaving the roadway.
If another driver in West Virginia crashes into you and flees the scene, collect information such as a description of the vehicle and its license plate numbers, if possible. Call 911 to report the crash immediately. Ask for an ambulance if you have any injuries. Then, call your own auto insurance provider to seek compensation for your damages. Your uninsured motorist insurance should reimburse you for vehicle repairs and medical bills after a hit-and-run accident. Your insurance company will treat your claim as if the driver stayed at the scene but was uninsured. Contact a car accident lawyer for assistance with your hit-and-run claim.