Any accident that results in serious injuries is devastating for the victim. However, the situation is even more distressing when it appears as if no one is going to be held accountable because the person responsible fled the scene.
This is what happened to 18-year-old Christopher Brooks, of Woodlyn, Pennsylvania on the night of April 21, 2014. Brooks was riding his bicycle on Chester Pike in Ridley Township when he was hit by a Ford F-150 truck. The truck fled the scene, leaving Brooks critically injured with head and leg injuries. He was rushed to Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Ultimately, Brooks’ right leg had to be amputated below the knee.
More information on the accident is available at http://www.delcotimes.com/general-news/20141103/ridley-park-woman-waives-preliminary-hearing-in-hit-run-case-that-maimed-teen-bicyclist#disqus_thread
Motor Duty in a Hit and Run Accident
A hit and run accident occurs when a driver hits a pedestrian, cyclist or another car or fixed object, and then leaves the scene without providing the victim or law enforcement with identifying information or checking to see if the victim needs medical assistance.
Pennsylvania law requires a motorist who gets into an accident that results in an injury or property damage to remain at the scene, render aid to any injured victim, provide his name, address, and vehicle registration number to the victim, and report the accident to the police. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
However, if the victim suffers a serious injury, than the crime is a felony of the third degree that carries a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. If the victim dies as a result of the accident, then the minimum sentence is three years in prison and a $2,500 fine (PA Code §§75-3742 and 75-3744).
Identifying the Hit and Run Driver
It is often challenging to identify, arrest and successfully prosecute hit-and-run drivers because it is usually difficult for victims to identify a driver who has fled the scene, especially in cases where the victim suffered a serious injury. However, with diligent investigative work, hit-and-run drivers can be found.
- Surveillance Cameras – Nowadays there are surveillance cameras practically everywhere. Businesses install cameras to monitor the areas around their premises. Some areas have police cameras and red light cameras.
- Witnesses – Witnesses can be invaluable in a hit-and-run scenario. Witnesses may provide the color and general description of the fleeing vehicle. Some witnesses are able to get all or a portion of the license plate. Because most people carry phones with cameras, a witness may even be able to provide a photo or video of the vehicle.
- Vehicle Damage – Accident scene investigators can sometimes use evidence left at the scene such as pieces of the damaged vehicle as clues to the type of vehicle involved.
- Media Help – Hit-and-run accidents are often mentioned on the local news and in newspapers, leading to tips from witnesses.
Legal Recourse for a Hit and Run Victim
If the hit-and-run driver is located, then not only will law enforcement seek to hold the driver criminally accountable by charging him with violating the accident reporting statute and any other crimes related to the accident, the victim can also seek monetary damages from the victim.
If you were injured by a hit-and-run driver, through a personal injury lawsuit you can hold the negligent driver financially accountable for the injuries and other losses you suffered as a result of the accident.
- Medical Expenses – You may be able to recover not only the medical expenses you incurred prior to filing your lawsuit, but future medical expenses related to your injury. Such medical expenses include your emergency room visit, hospital stays, physical therapy, surgery, and prescription medication.
- Lost Wages – You can sue to recover any wages you lost due to your inability to go to work. This would include actual paychecks that you missed as well as the value of sick days, vacation days, or other time off you used while recovering from your injuries.
- Loss of Future Earning Capacity – If you are permanently disabled and are no longer able to work, then you can be compensated for the earnings that you would have made over the course of your lifetime. If you are still able to work but not earn what you would have otherwise earned, you may be able to recover the difference.
- Pain and Suffering – The defendant may be required to pay you damages for both the physical pain and suffering you endured as well as the mental pain and suffering. The physical pain and suffering is related to the actual injury and treatment of the injury. For example, if, as in the case of Christopher Brooks of Delaware County, your injury was permanent, you will likely be awarded more damages for pain and suffering than if your injury left a scar. Furthermore, the court will consider the psychological impact of the accident and your injuries.
- Wrongful Death – If a loved one was killed by a hit-and-run driver, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and recover damages. The damages that may be recoverable include medical and funeral expenses, loss of expected earnings, loss of benefits such as medical coverage, mental anguish and suffering, and loss of consortium.
Resolution of Brooks Delaware County Case
In the case of Christopher Brooks, the police were indeed able to find the person who hit him. Based on accomplice statements as well as surveillance footage and evidence at the scene, nearly three months after the accident 26-year old Adrienne McCrae was arrested. McCrae, of Ridley Park, PA, eventually plead guilty to three criminal charges related to the April 2014 accident and was sentenced to 9-23 months in prison.
Now that the criminal case has been resolved, there is a good chance that Brooks will pursue a civil case against McCrae.
A personal injury case based on a hit-and-run accident can be complicated relying on complex evidentiary issues and the nuances of personal injury law. Whether it was you who was injured or a loved one, contact Donaghue & Labrum to discuss your legal options. Our staff has years of experience successfully representing clients who have been injured by negligent drivers.