Hit-and-Run Accidents: Getting Help for Cyclists and Pedestrians
St. Louis bicyclist Danyell McMiller died in a hit-and-run accident September 6, the latest in a string of violent traffic crimes in the city this summer. McMiller’s death was the sixth death of a pedestrian by a hit-and-run driver in six weeks in St. Louis. The city is on pace to exceed last year’s total of pedestrian deaths:
- Seven pedestrians were killed by hit-and-run drivers in St. Louis in 2021.
- St. Louis has almost four times as many pedestrian hit-and-run fatalities per capita as Indianapolis, and twice as many as Chicago each year.
- Forty-six percent of crashes killing pedestrians or bike riders are hit-and-runs in St. Louis, about twice the national average.
The number of fatal hit-and-run accidents increased 60% between 2009 and 2016 nationwide (when AAA last compiled this data.) More than 2,000 people died in hit-and-runs in 2016. Two-thirds of them were bike riders and pedestrians.
It’s awful when a cyclist or pedestrian dies in a hit-and run accident. But those that survive are not any luckier. Indeed, their nightmare is just beginning. Many have both physical and emotional injuries. They might not be able to work for months, or ever again.
In most accidents, the driver who is at fault has insurance and their company pays the bills of the victims. Not so with hit-and-runs because when a driver hits someone then speeds off, there might not be any way to catch them, let alone get their insurance information. Victims then have to rely on their own insurance company to pay for medical care and other expenses.
In some cases, hit-and-run accident victims struggle to get the money they are due from their insurance companies. That is where car accident attorneys Hipskind and McAninch come in. We help victims get the financial support they need from insurance companies and other sources.
Why Does St. Louis Have So Many Hit-and-Run Accidents?
A biker or walker hit by a car might have life-threatening injuries. Yet drivers speed away without seeming to care. Why do St. Louis drivers leave the scene of the accident? No one has concrete answers, but all these reasons have contributed to drivers leaving the scene of accidents.
- Drivers think they can get away with leaving the scene of the accident because no one is watching. This happens in places where people get around by car, not by walking. Drivers also leave the scene when the accident is in an isolated area, like in North St. Louis where there are many vacant buildings.
- Drivers do not know they need to stay at an accident scene until police arrive. Missouri, like 18 other states, does not require drivers to take a driver’s education class to get their licenses and this might contribute to their ignorance of the law.
- Fear of the criminal justice system leads some hit and run drivers to flee the scene. The drivers might be on parole, have drugs on them, or be drunk. If they are a black young man, they may fear any police contact.
What Victims Need to Do After a Violent Traffic Crime
When a walker or bicyclist survives being hit by a car, they need to be checked by a doctor right away. This might seem obvious, but many hit-and-run accident victims do not accept medical treatment on the scene or go to the doctor immediately afterward because they think they are not hurt. They might be in shock both physically and emotionally and not thinking clearly.
Benefits of going to a doctor right after an accident include:
- Symptoms of injuries might be hidden to an untrained eye, but a doctor will find them and begin treating them. The most common undetectable injuries are to the head, neck, and spinal cord. Doctors also commonly identify injuries to the muscles, joints, tendons, and other soft tissues.
- Stiffness and soreness right after the accident may turn out to be whiplash, which can take days or weeks to be diagnosed.
- Other injuries, such as internal bleeding or bone fractures, can only be detected through a CT scan, an MRI, or through X-rays.
- Beginning treatment right away might prevent serious, or even life-changing, outcomes. For example, what might be a slight headache following the crash could be a sign of a concussion or other serious traumatic brain injury.
- Seeking medical attention soon after a crash documents any potential injuries and connects them to the accident.
Getting Legal Help After an Accident With a Hit-and-Run Driver
In most accident cases, the driver who is at fault is responsible for paying for the damage to the other individual’s car (or bike), plus medical bills and other expenses. In a hit-and-run accident, the driver is nowhere to be found and the person who was hit might think they are on their own, but they are not. Auto accident lawyers Hipskind and McAninch help accident victims get the compensation they deserve.
Some people do want to seek a settlement without a lawyer. Legally, individuals can represent themselves in hit-and-run cases, but it is in their best interest to hire a lawyer.
With decades of experience dealing with car accident cases, the Hipskind and McAninch team knows how to secure a fair and just settlement amount. When cases that end up in court, we argue for our clients against the legal team representing the insurance company and the at-fault driver. That is something an individual rarely wants to do themselves.
Hit-and-run accident victims who want to make a personal injury claim need to know some important deadlines.
- A claim must be filed in Illinois by a victim within two years of the date the accident occurred.
- In Missouri, it is five years from the date of the incident.
There are a few exceptions to the deadlines, but they are rare. A good car accident attorney will make sure that documents are filed before these deadlines expire.