Hit-and-run accidents in Maine (and nationwide) are a rapidly rising concern, highlighted by an alarming new report indicating hit-and-run deaths have a record-high nationally.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that in a single recent year, there were 737,000 total hit-and-run crashes tallied with 2,049 deaths. Both of these figures are the most ever recorded since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began recording in 1975. Hit-and-run crashes account for 12 percent of the total crashes in the U.S., 7 percent of all injuries and 5.5 percent of all car accident deaths.
In Maine, there were a total of seven hit-and-run crashes resulted in death recorded that year. On one hand, that’s one of the lowest figures of fatal hit-and-runs in the country. However, the data is presented in raw numbers, failing to factor in population. Beyond that, those seven crashes amounted to a 75 percent year-over-year increase and the highest reported in the last decade. We had four straight years in that time with zero hit-and-run crash deaths, and the year before that, there one deadly hit-and-run crash.
Among some of the recent cases:
- A 22-year-old woman was charged with four serious crimes, including manslaughter after she allegedly struck and killed a 24-year-old pedestrian in York, walking along the road with her boyfriend. The driver reportedly sped off while the victim’s boyfriend scrambled to call for help. The young woman was pronounced dead at the hospital. Investigators identified the driver months later.
- A 56-year-old pedestrian was killed in Casco, struck by a car driven by a 28-year-old man who fled the scene but was later arrested.
- More recently, a 43-year-old man in Fryeburg was seriously injured in a hit-and-run while walking on River Street. He suffered head, leg and shoulder injuries, but is expected to survive.
Pedestrians especially are vulnerable to hit-and-run crashes, as are bicyclists. Last year, the Maine Department of Transportation reported 20 pedestrian deaths. From 2006 to 2014, the number of Maine pedestrian deaths hovered somewhere around 9 to 11, but then spiked to 19 in 2015, 17 in 2016 and 20 in 2017.
As our Maine hit-and-run injury attorneys can explain, although defendants in these cases often face civil charges if they are caught, that is a separate process than a civil claim for damages to help you recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering or wrongful death. Sometimes even if drivers are caught, it isn’t much help. One primary reason these drivers flee crashes is because they don’t have a license and/or aren’t insured.
All drivers in Maine are required to carry at least $100,000 per accident in bodily injury liability and the same amount for uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage, as outlined in M.R.S. Title 24-A s. 2902. The coverage protects drivers or passengers who are injured by a driver who is not identified, lacks auto insurance or whose auto insurance doesn’t fully cover their damages. (It is generally recommended to have no less than $500,000 UM/UIM coverage, and preferably closer to $1 million).
The problem for pedestrians and bicyclists, however, is they aren’t required to carry insurance like drivers. So when they are hit by a negligent driver who isn’t insured or is uninsured, they don’t necessarily have that protection.
But those injured or who have suffered the loss of a loved one in a hit-and-run shouldn’t consider it a foregone conclusion because there may still be several avenues worth pursuing. First of all, if the person who was injured or the decedent did have a UM policy, it should cover them for the crash, even though they weren’t behind the wheel, so long as they can show that the unidentified or uninsured driver was liable for the injuries or death in question. Note that many Maine auto insurance policies cover resident relatives in the same household.
If the driver is identified but does not have insurance, that individual could be sued for personal assets, though your attorney will need to identify whether the defendant’s assets are sufficient to make it a viable claim.
Our Maine injury attorneys have had great success in handling hit-and-run crashes and securing substantial damage awards for victims, typically through UM/UIM benefits.
If you are the victim of a Bangor pedestrian accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Hit-and-Run Deaths Hit Record High, April 2018, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
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Funny Signs, Serious Messages, as Maine Battles Deadly Start to Summer, June 21, 2018, Bangor Pedestrian Accident Attorney Blog