On September 10, 2019, witnesses found a bicyclist on the ground near Southwest and 23rd Blvd. in Tulsa. While the cyclist did not immediately remember what happened, police officers determined that they were struck by a vehicle that drove away, and are investigating further. The bicyclist was transported by ambulance to the emergency room for CT scans and other tests relating to a head injury.
Incidents like this are all too common, and they are unfortunately taking place more frequently. A hit and run vehicle driver can hit you while you are riding a bike, walking, or driving another car, etc. In fact, this happens more often than you might imagine: Our office handles dozens of hit and run claims every year. The reasons for drivers fleeing the scene vary from not having a valid licence, not having insurance, being intoxicated, wanting to avoid liability for their negligence, among other reasons.
Like every state, Oklahoma has laws that require drivers involved in accidents to remain at the scene of the crash and exchange information with the other drivers involved. If the accident appears to have caused any injuries or fatalities, the law requires drivers to immediately report the accident to the authorities. It is never acceptable for a driver to simply leave the scene and not return.
Leaving the scene of a crash is a criminal offense in Oklahoma, with the following possible criminal penalties if a driver is caught:
– For property damage accidents only = Misdemeanor charge with a possible $500 fine and one year in jail
– For accidents causing injuries = Felony charge with a possible $1,000 fine, two years in state prison, and the revocation of a driver’s license
– For accidents causing fatal injuries = Felony charge with a possible $10,000 fine, ten years in state prison, and the revocation of a driver’s license
Despite these serious criminal charges and potential penalties, many people are shocked when the driver who hit them flees the scene.
When someone violates Oklahoma law and leaves the scene after hitting your car, it can be a highly stressful situation. You might have costly property damage and injuries that will result in significant medical bills. If the driver stayed at the scene, you could have obtained their insurance information to file a claim to seek compensation for your medical expenses and other losses. With no insurance or identifying information for the negligent driver, you may have no way of filing a claim against them or their insurance carrier (if any).
In this situation, you should immediately call 911 after the crash even without the other driver present. Emergency medical personnel may respond to check out your injuries and if needed, transport you. It is important to tell the police what you remember happening, including any possible information about the car or driver. The police should also investigate to see if there are any surveillance cameras around or witnesses who might provide more information.
Next, always discuss your accident with an experienced Tulsa personal injury lawyer. Never assume that you will have to be responsible for your bills just because the driver left the scene. An attorney can review your options, and may do the following:
– Work with the police and prosecutors to try to gather evidence and identify the hit and run driver when possible
– Review your insurance policy to determine what coverage you may have available
Oklahoma requires auto insurance companies to offer uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage to everyone who purchase insurance coverage. Although you can reject this coverage, we strongly encourage everyone to carry it. Not only does it come into play when a driver does not have the required liability insurance coverage or too low of a coverage limit to property compensate you for your injuries and damages, but your UM policy should also cover your damages and injuries from a hit and run driver.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your attorney can help you calculate your damages and prepare your claim. Just because it is your own insurance company does not mean that the claims process will be simple, as all insurance companies can try to limit what they pay, if anything, on all claims. Having legal representation can help make the process easier and ensure you receive the full amount of compensation you need to cover your losses.
At Wandres Law, PC, our Tulsa personal injury attorneys handle all types of auto accident claims, including hit and runs. If you have been injured, please call (918) 641-4044 or contact us online for a free consultation as soon as possible.