How Personal Injury Lawyers can Help After a Hit-and-Run Injury

How Personal Injury Lawyers can Help After a Hit-and-Run Injury

Hit-and-Run Accidents


Recently, a cyclist in Markham and a 17-year-old pedestrian in North York died when struck by drivers who then left the accident scene. Fleeing the scene of an accident is, sadly, not uncommon. In Oshawa in 2019, as a cyclist lay dying in the road, not only did the driver of the car leave the scene, but several other drivers also passed by without stopping to help. Why do drivers leave the scene? There is an impression that these are people who simply panic -- and that may be true in some circumstances -- but often drivers flee in an effort to escape criminal charges. In July 2019, a motorcyclist struck a four-year-old boy, leaving him with a brain injury; the driver of the motorcycle was found to be driving without a licence. A month later, an off-duty York Region police officer was charged with failing to stop at the scene and dangerous driving causing bodily harm after striking a motorcyclist. In that case, as in many other “hit-and-run” incidents, the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident had blood alcohol levels exceeding the limit.


Legal Ramifications


Individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents are required to remain at the scene, render assistance if necessary, and provide name, address, driver’s licence information and insurance information to the police and/or the person who sustained an injury. The driver has an obligation to report the accident as soon as possible if it resulted in personal injury or in more than $1,000 in property damage. Failure to do so can result in charges.


In Ontario, police can use the provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada’s “fail to stop at the scene of an accident” section to charge a hit-and-run driver, or they can choose the “fail to remain at the scene of an accident” provisions of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario. Penalties can include everything from fines to jail time, as well as licence suspension, demerit points, and increased insurance rates. If someone involved in the accident dies, a hit-and-run offender can be sentenced to life in prison. In addition, many drivers face other charges, such as impaired driving or dangerous driving. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, leaving the scene can carry harsh penalties.


Police tend to divide these cases into two types: fender benders, where property damage occurs, but no one is injured, and those that involve personal injury or fatality. Although hit-and-run drivers may wish to avoid responsibility for their actions, those involved in serious accidents rarely do. The prevalence of closed circuit cameras and cellphone videos shot by witnesses make finding perpetrators increasingly easy. Forensics officers are also able to use small fragments of vehicles or paint samples found on the road or on victims’ clothing to identify vehicles. Auto body shops and mechanics receive alerts from police about vehicles, and news articles often lead to witnesses coming forward. Sometimes a driver’s guilty conscience compels them to come forward. Police solve the vast majority of these cases – approximately 90%, according to the Peel Region Police’s Major Collision Bureau. All of the drivers in the stories above were caught and charged.


What to Do


If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident and are not injured, try to get the driver’s licence plate number. Look for any bystanders who may have witnessed the accident and get their contact information. Report the accident to the police immediately, and notify your insurance company within 24 hours. If you have sustained an injury in a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident, first seek medical attention for your injuries and follow doctor recommendations carefully. Next, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Lawyers who have skill and experience in this area of the law know how to navigate the process of filing an insurance claim, and/or taking legal action. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that you will not be charged hourly; rather, the lawyer will receive a percentage of any settlement that you receive. In addition, the initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is usually provided free of charge in Ontario. You will have a chance to find out more about your case, and the lawyer will have a chance to assess it during this first meeting.


Before talking to a lawyer, write down everything you can remember about the circumstances of the accident, including the names and contact information of anyone who saw what happened, if you were able to obtain that information. Be truthful, even if you were partly at fault – be honest if you were distracted, or were crossing mid-block rather than at a crosswalk, for example.


Contact a personal injury law firm today and learn more about your options.