According to the most recent research published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety—“Hit-and-Run Crashes: Prevalence, Contributing Factors, and Countermeasures,” in 2015, there were more than 737,000 hit-and-run accidents in the United States. These crashes resulted in more than 2,000 fatalities, 60% of which were pedestrians. Hit-and-run crashes account for 11% of all vehicle accidents and 20% of all pedestrian fatalities. In some highly-populated cities, this figure can reach as high as 40%. And research shows that the rates for hit-and-run accidents and resulting fatalities continue to increase by about 7.2% every year.

States that have higher populations tend to have more hit-and-run accidents per capita, but even Missouri’s rate of hit-and-run crashes is alarming. These are the number of hit-and-run crashes involving at least one fatality for each year between 2006 and 2016 for Missouri and surrounding states.

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If you have been the victim of a hit-a-and-run accident, it is not too late to pursue the driver who is responsible for your injuries and receive the compensation you deserve.

Likewise, if you were involved in an accident and left the scene without providing the appropriate information to the other driver or to law enforcement, you can still make amends. Everyone makes mistakes. Even if you only think you may have hit a pedestrian late at night or backed into someone’s car in a parking lot, you should call the experienced hit-and-run car accident attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC. We will help you take the proper steps to determine what may have happened and to resolve your situation before it gets worse. If you accidentally injured someone or damaged someone’s property and left the scene, we will help you to account for your accident and make fair compensation. It is never too late to do the right thing.

What is a Hit-and-Run?

A “hit-and-run” accident is any accident or collision in which someone involved in the crash leaves the scene of the accident before providing proper information to, or assisting, other persons involved in the accident, or fails to report the accident to the proper authorities. It does not matter whether you caused the accident or not. In Missouri, committing a hit-and-run or “leaving the scene of an accident” is a criminal offense and can result in significant fines and/or time in jail.  

In Missouri, a person commits the crime of “leaving the scene of an accident” when they operate a vehicle and are involved in an accident that results in:

  • Injury;
  • Death; or
  • Damage to another person’s property

and leaves the scene of the accident without giving the following information to the other party or to a police officer:

  • Their name;
  • The address of their residence, including city and street number;
  • The registration or license plate number of their vehicle; and
  • Their operator's license number, if they have one.

If the other driver is unable to take the information because they are injured or deceased and there is no law enforcement officer in the vicinity, then the driver must provide this information to the nearest law enforcement agency.

What Factors Contribute to the High Rate of Hit-and-Run Accidents?

According to a Research Brief published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there are three primary factors that contribute to hit-and-run accidents:

  • The characteristics of the responsible drivers.  Although studies vary from country to country, in the United States, the drivers who are more likely to be involved in hit-and-run accidents are young males who have a suspended license or a prior record of driving while intoxicated. Hit-and-run drivers are up to 9 times more likely to be intoxicated at the time of the accident.
  • The characteristics of the victims. Research over the last four decades shows that the majority of people who are killed in hit-and-run accidents in the United States are pedestrians. Although hit-and-run crashes account for only 1% of vehicle driver fatalities, they account for 20% of all pedestrian deaths. Some of the victim characteristics that may be a factor in whether a driver flees the scene of a fatal accident include:
  • The victim’s age. Studies show that a driver is half as likely to leave the scene of a fatal accident when the victim is a pedestrian under the age of 6 or over the age of 80, compared to fatally injured victims of other ages.

The age of the victim also contributes to whether the hit-and-run driver will be identified. Studies show that a driver who flees the scene is likely to be identified later:

  • 60% of the time when the victim is a child between the ages of 6 and 15
  • 39% of the time when the victim is between 31 and 55 years old
  • 49% of the time when victim is between 76 and 80 years old
  • The victim’s gender.  Around 70% of hit-and-run victims are males; only 30% are female. But drivers are 6.6% more likely to be later identified when the victim is female, compared to when the victim is male. 
  • The conditions of the accident scenes.  Naturally, the conditions of the accident scene will be a factor in whether a driver is likely to leave the scene. Some of the conditions that have the greatest impact on hit-and-run accidents include:
  • Visibility.  A hit-and-run is more likely to occur when a driver thinks that they can flee the scene without being identified. So, for example, a hit-and-run is 4.4 times more likely to occur between midnight and 4:00 a.m., when it is dark, than during the morning hours between 8:00 a.m. and noon, when there is daylight.

Although weather conditions may contribute to poor visibility, they also tend to minimize the volume of pedestrians and, therefore, don’t significantly increase the likelihood of hit-and-run accidents. Additionally, if a driver feels that the accident was caused by the weather conditions and not their own negligence, they may be more likely to remain at the scene since they do not feel that they were at fault for causing the accident.

  • Design of the road.  Studies show that hit-and-run accidents are more likely to occur on local roads, where there is usually a higher volume of pedestrians, or on parts of the road where vehicles travel more slowly, such as curves, bends, overpasses, and ramps, where pedestrians may be more likely to attempt to cross the road.

Why Would a Driver Leave the Scene of an Accident?

Numerous studies show that in the United States, about half of all hit-and-run drivers are eventually identified. So why do so many drivers decide to flee the scene of an accident? There are many reasons:

  • As described above, a driver may be inclined to flee the scene of an accident when they think that they are likely to escape without being identified. This may be because the accident occurred in an area with:
  • Low visibility
  • Minimal traffic
  • Few witnesses
  • Drivers who should not be driving or who may be subject to greater penalties may be more inclined to flee the scene. These may include:
  • Drivers with no insurance
  • Driver’s without a license
  • Drivers with a suspended license
  • Intoxicated drivers (who also may not be thinking rationally)
  • Drivers with a record of previous convictions for driving while intoxicated.
  • Drivers who feel responsible for the accident (because of intoxication or negligent or distracted driving) may be more inclined to leave the scene than a driver who feels the accident was the pedestrian’s or other driver’s fault.

Here are some other common reasons hit-and-run drivers offered for why they left the scene of the accident or failed to report the accident:

  • The crash involved only property damage, so the drivers did not think they had to stop or report the accident
  • The drivers thought the accident was a scam
  • The drivers did not think the crash was serious enough to require them to stop
  • The drivers did not even know that they had been involved in an accident.

What is the Penalty for Leaving the Scene of the Accident? 

In Missouri, leaving the scene of an accident is a “class A misdemeanor,” which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

The offense may increase to a “class E felony,” which carries a penalty of up to 4 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000, if the accident involved:

  • Physical injury to another person
  • Damage to the property of another person in excess of $1,000
  • The driver has a previous conviction for leaving the scene of an accident either in Missouri or in another state.

If a death occurred in the hit-and-run accident, the offense is classified as a “class D felony,” which carries a penalty of up to 7 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

What Should I Do if I was Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident?

You have been involved in a hit-and-run accident if:

  • Someone hit you while you were driving your car and did not stop to exchange information;
  • Someone struck you while you were a pedestrian and drove off without helping you or reporting the accident;
  • Someone caused damage to your car or any of your property and left the scene without leaving the required information or reporting the accident; or
  • You committed any of the above acts.

If any of these describe an accident that you were involved in, you should call the attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, right away. If you are the victim of a hit-and-run and have been injured or suffered property damage, the attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, will help you to identify the driver and recover the full compensation that you deserve for your injuries and damages. Likewise, if you left the scene of an accident without exchanging information or reporting the accident—even if you were not at fault for the accident—you will need help with the criminal and civil issues that you are likely going to face. Call Foster Wallace, LLC, today at (816) 249-2101. It is never too late to do the right thing.   

Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Car Accident?

If you've been hurt in a Kansas City car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.  

Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney