A hit-and-run is a crash in which a motorist leaves the scene of the accident without informing the police, leaving any note on the automobile they struck, providing their contact information, or offering any form of assistance to an injured individual.
More people than you might imagine have been involved in, perpetrated, or witnessed a hit-and-run accident. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation, a hit-and-run crash happens every 43 seconds in the United States. While an overwhelming majority simply result in property damage, serious injuries and death are realistic outcomes when these accidents occur.
It is important to have a clear understanding of your responsibilities as a motorist who may consider leaving the scene of a crash in Albuquerque and the implications of doing so. It is also critical that you know what to do if a motorist strikes you and flees the scene. The information you are able to secure will be critical in ensuring the police hold the driver accountable for violating New Mexico hit and run laws and in recovering compensation if you suffer injuries.
How Common Are Hit and Run Accidents in New Mexico?
Data compiled by the New Mexico Department of Transportation shows that during the most recently reported year (2020), there were 6,433 hit-and-run crashes. This accounts for 17.6% of all accidents that happened in our state that year. At least 19.6% of them resulted in injuries and 0.47% caused fatalities.
Why Do Hit and Run Accidents Occur?
While it may seem unimaginable to you to flee the scene of a crash if you were to become involved in one, as you have seen by looking at the statistics, it happens quite often. Some of the more common reasons motorists leave the scene of crashes include they are:
- Panicked: Becoming involved in a car crash can be unnerving, especially if you are worried that you may be deemed at-fault for it. It is also common for those involved in their first accident ever to not understand protocol for handling their involvement in a crash. Drivers may also fear the prospect that they will face criminal charges stemming from an accident and thus flee the scene in hopes they can avoid that happening.
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol: Motorists not only run the risk of having their driver’s license taken away but may face criminal charges if they are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Charges may be upgraded when their actions result in property damage or bodily harm.
- Wanted by the law: Law enforcement request motorists’ identification when they arrive at the scene of an Albuquerque crash. A person who has previous traffic tickets may worry about how a crash will affect the points on their record or, even worse, how being caught driving on a suspended license may lead to their arrest. A motorist may also flee the scene of the crash if they are aware there is a warrant out for their arrest on other criminal charges to avoid being sent to jail.
- Uninsured: Many motorists take their chances and do not carry insurance in hopes that they will not be caught. Their insurer may have even dropped them because they were involved in too many crashes, received too many traffic infractions, or something else. Drivers may leave the scene of a crash to avoid having their lack of insurance discovered.
Responsibilities New Mexico Drivers Have After a Crash
Laws surrounding hit and runs in our state are stated in New Mexico Statutes 66-7-202. These exist to discourage hit and runs from occurring.
New Mexico law requires all motorists to immediately stop at the scene of the accident and provide their:
- Address and phone number
- Vehicle identification number
- Insurance details
If a party is injured in the incident, then New Mexico law requires you to assist the injured person by summoning paramedics to the scene or transporting them for medical treatment if requested.
Additionally, if you cause damage to a car or property in the absence of the owner, then you are required to leave your contact information per New Mexico law. Doing so allows the vehicle’s owner to contact you to cover property damages.
Criminal Penalties Exist for Those Who Cause Hit-and-Run Accidents in New Mexico
Many hit and run cases go unresolved because perpetrators are never found, or they claim not to be the one who was driving the car at the time of the accident. However, prosecutors often pursue criminal charges such as the following against defendants when they have enough evidence to prove hit and run allegations:
- Misdemeanor: A motorist who caused a hit and run crash may face misdemeanor charges if they failed to stop after causing minor damages to another vehicle or property. If found guilty, the presiding judge may order the motorist to pay a maximum fine of $1,000 or serve 12 months in prison.
- Fourth-degree felony: This is one of the less serious felony categories in New Mexico. A motorist who failed to stop at the scene of an accident that resulted in serious or fatal bodily injuries may face this charge. The punishment associated with a conviction for this offense is an 18-month jail term or a fine not exceeding $5,000.
- Third-degree felony: This felony charge is more serious than a fourth-degree one. Any person who intentionally drives away from an accident scene that results in serious bodily injuries can be indicted under this category. If found guilty, the person is liable to a three-year jail term in a county jail or a maximum fine of $5,000.
Additionally, if a driver fails to stop at an accident scene that results in death, they are likely to receive an additional $5,000 fine or prison sentence of up to six years. The Court is also likely to revoke that defendant’s New Mexico driver’s license.
What To Do After You Are in a Hit and Run Crash
If you have the misfortune of becoming involved in a hit and run, then you’ll want to do the following:
- Get the vehicle’s identification, registration, or license plate If you cannot memorize the numbers, use your phone to take a picture of it.
- See if you can identify any witnesses at the scene. Talk to them and see what you may have not seen or cannot remember.
- Take as many pictures of the accident scene and vehicle or property damage as possible.
- Call in the accident to the police and insurance company so that investigations can begin.
- Call an ambulance or drive yourself to a hospital as fast as possible and have yourself checked. Keep any reports they provide you with as these will come in handy in building your case.
- Get hold of an accident lawyer like ours at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm to get a professional insight on how to move forward with your Albuquerque case.
Compensation You May Be Eligible for Following a New Mexico Hit and Run Accident
In the event the driver or perpetrator of the hit-and-run is located, your vehicle repairs and passenger’s medical expenses will be covered by their liability insurance. However, you may be out of luck for financial compensation if the driver is never found and you are only holding state-required liability coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage usually steps in when the driver cannot be found. But what if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage? At this point, you will have to look at collision coverage which usually covers the costs of your vehicle repair up to your policy limit. Other optional car insurance coverage can come to your aid in such situations.
Getting Help With Filing a Claim After a Hit and Run Accident
It is always a challenge when the victim of a hit and run is rendered unconscious or rendered deceased on the spot. The responsibility then lies with the general public to volunteer information they may have concerning hit and runs.
No matter whether you have suffered debilitating injuries in the hit-and-run or if you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, our car accident lawyer team at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm has the necessary expertise to help you navigate the legal system as you fight for your rights. Contact us to schedule a free case review so that we can advise you of your right to recover monetary compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained or your loved one’s wrongful death.