Unless the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is apprehended at the scene or voluntarily surrenders, most hit-and-runs go unsolved. In some jurisdictions, the unsolved rate exceeds 90 percent. The unsolved rate is much lower in civil court, mostly because of the lower burden of proof. More on that below.
In addition to the lower burden of proof, a Kansas City personal injury attorney has the resources to locate missing tortfeasors and hold them responsible for their misdeeds. This responsibility usually includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Tracking Down the Tortfeasor
As mentioned, the burden of proof usually comes into play in this area. In criminal court, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unless a credible witness saw the tortfeasor behind the wheel at or near the time of the crash, hit-and-run charges normally don’t hold up in court.
But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Since it’s more likely than not that the owner was also the driver, an attorney often need only locate the vehicle’s owner.
Assume a nearby surveillance camera caught a partial license plate number. This evidence is almost useless in criminal court, because of the high burden of proof. But a lawyer could use that bit of evidence to locate the vehicle’s owner.
To collect the necessary evidence, attorneys often partner with private investigators. Additional proof in this area includes things like statements from witnesses that emergency responders ignored and recent customers at nearby auto body shops.
Despite all this, it’s not always possible to locate the negligent driver. If that’s the case, many victims think they do not have legal options. But in most cases, that’s not true.
Generally, victims in these situations can file claims against their own insurance companies. Typically, since the insurance company wants to keep its customer happy, these claims settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms. Typically, the same compensation outlined above is available in self-insurance claims.
If the claim does not settle, it will probably go to arbitration instead of trial. Arbitration is essentially a private trial. Attorneys call witnesses and make legal arguments, but there is no record of the proceedings and an arbiter is not technically a judge.
Hit and run victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Kansas City, contact the Krause and Kinsman Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury cases.
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.