A D.C. man was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while changing a tire on Baltimore-Washington Parkway one recent Sunday night. His 28-year-old fiancée, who was also injured, is expected to survive.
His mother’s only child, he left behind three children, including a teenage son and daughter who were with him when he was struck, but were not injured. Police have identified the vehicle they believe was involved in the crash, and indicate a person of interest has also been located and interviewed.
Hit-and-run accidents are unfortunately very common in D.C., which had the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run drivers in the country between 2000 and 2009, according to a report from Mid-Atlantic AAA. The percentage of hit-and-run deaths here was 16.3 percent of the total number of traffic fatalities. By comparison, hit-and-runs accounted for 4.5 percent of traffic deaths in Maryland and 2.4 percent in Virginia.
Nationally, an estimated 16,400 people were killed in hit-and-run crashes between 2000 and 2009.
Washington D.C. accident lawyers know that usually, people who flee the scene are drunk, unlicensed or driving in vehicles that are unregistered or uninsured.
In addition to the emotional damage victims suffer as a result of the indignity of the offender’s actions, there are also practical implications. For example, there is no way to collect on an at-fault driver’s insurance policy if the driver is never found. Or even if the driver is identified, he or she may not have insurance or may only carry the minimum amount.
In these situations, victims and survivors may seek compensation through their own auto insurance company through uninsured motorist /underinsured motorist coverage.
D.C. follows a no-fault car insurance law, which essentially says motorists have to pursue coverage through their own carrier first, and can’t sue one another unless the case involves substantial and permanent scarring, disfigurement, impairment, disability or death. But if the at-fault driver is never identified or has no insurance, UM/UIM coverage is a possible remedy.
Each driver in D.C. is required to carry minimum UM/UIM benefits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. This ensures that medical bills can still be paid even if one of those involved in the crash didn’t have insurance or lacked enough insurance to cover all damages.
These benefits are available to motorists even when they aren’t actually driving. So for example, this driver changing a tire on the roadside when struck would likely be eligible for UM/UIM benefits, assuming the at-fault driver is either not identified or lacks adequate insurance coverage. The same would go for a cyclist and possibly even a pedestrian, depending on the situation and individual policy language.
Another possible avenue of compensation worth exploring is a claim of vicarious liability. This would usually arise if the hit-and-run driver is later identified and was operating a vehicle that did not belong to them, but which they had permission to drive. Vehicle owners have a broad responsibility to ensure their cars – considered a type of dangerous instrumentality – aren’t driven recklessly. When they fail to do this, it could be grounds for a vicarious liability claim.
In cases of impaired hit-run drivers, our attorneys might also explore the possibility of dram shop litigation against the provider of the alcohol, particularly if the driver was underage.
Contact the Mike Slocumb Law Firm at 1-800-HURTLINE or visit www.slocumblaw.com.