Officers partially identified a driver who ignored orders to stop and smacked into a Rescue Squad member as he investigated an earlier fatal accident.
The wreck occurred on West Highway 90 near the Highway 1546 intersection. According to police, an unknown motorist drove through a roadblock and struck an emergency responder. The motorist continued driving, and the victim, whose name was not released, was rushed to a nearby hospital.
Witnesses said the driver had salt-and-pepper hair. The Jeep Cherokee had a Kentucky license plate which began with 070.
Why Do Drivers Run?
Many Kentucky drivers flee the scene of a crash because they have no insurance. The Bluegrass State has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country. These drivers are afraid of the consequences, and many times, fear prompts people to make irrational or rash decisions.
On a related note, many drivers do not have valid drivers’ licenses. Legally, driving without a license is even worse than driving without insurance. Similarly, many drivers have outstanding traffic ticket or other arrest warrants.
The bottom line in all these situations is that, to many drivers, the miniscule risk of being caught outweighs the risk of remaining at the scene and facing the music. As outlined below, the risk of getting caught might be low in criminal court. But civil court is a different story.
Some people do not know that, under Kentucky law, it’s illegal to flee the scene of an accident even if you were not at fault.
Criminal and Civil Court
Statistics vary significantly by jurisdiction. But in some places, only about 10 percent of hit and run drivers are caught and successfully prosecuted in criminal court. Thus, many hit and run victims think a Lexington car crash lawyer cannot help them.
The burden on proof in criminal cases is the main reason the successful prosecution percentage is so low. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Since anyone could be behind the wheel, unless a witness got a good look at the driver at or near the scene of the crash, it’s almost impossible to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). This burden of proof is usually the one that matters. Limited compensation is available for some crime victims, but it’s nowhere near as much as the compensation available in civil court.
The facts in the above story are a good example. Since authorities have a partial plate number, they can probably track down the vehicle’s owner without much of a problem. But it’s almost impossible to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, who was behind the wheel at the time. That’s especially true if other people had regular access to the vehicle, such as family members.
However, it is more likely than not that the owner was also the driver, even in shared vehicle situations. So, unless the owner had an ironclad alibi for the time of the crash, ownership is probably enough evidence to sway a jury. Watching TV at home is not an ironclad alibi.
Tracking Down the Tortfeasor
Attorneys often partner with private investigators to track down tortfeasors (negligent drivers) when they have limited information, such as a partial plate number. Other common investigation methods include:
- Reviewing Surveillance Video: Security and other cameras cover almost every intersection and highway interchange in Lexington. As mentioned, even if a camera a few blocks from the crash site caught a glimpse of a plate number, that’s probably sufficient evidence.
- Inquiring at Area Body Shops: When tortfeasors wreck their cars in hit and runs, they usually do not go to Service King. Instead, they go to underground body shops. Attorneys know how to locate these places.
- Interviewing Additional Witnesses: For various reasons, many people have no desire to loiter at accident scenes so they can talk to police officers. These individuals often will talk to a personal injury attorney or private investigator, especially if the victim was killed or seriously injured.
Damages are usually quite high in hit and run cases. Most jurors believe that hit and run drivers were incredibly reckless. So, jurors often award maximum compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Hit and run victims have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Lexington, contact Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury matters.