Last month a 28-year-old man was arrested after an extensive search by local police following a hit and run accident in Arkansas. The individual had been involved in a near-fatal accident on January 14th near Fern’s Valley Loop and Arkansas 264. The driver turned himself in after several hours on the run. The victim is still in the hospital facing a tremendously difficult and long-lasting road to recovery with little more than a charitable donation website to support him.
Unfortunately, these types of stories are becoming all-too-common as the number of hit and run accidents in Arkansas increases on pace with national trends. Indeed, this terrible problem is something our nation is facing as a whole. But what’s causing the increase? It may be, in part, due to a crisis of irresponsibility.
Hit and Run Accidents On the Rise Nationwide
According to AAA, the number of hit and run accidents in the United States has increased (on average) 7.2 percent per year since 2009. It’s estimated that there have been 682,000 hit and run crashes nationwide since that time. In fact, in 2016 the number of fatal hit and run accidents reached an all-time high with 2,049 people losing their lives to careless drivers. That figure represents a 60% increase in just 7 years.
This crisis can be called a sign of the times. Distracted driving, recklessness, and disregard for fellow drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians are running rampant in Arkansas.
What’s the Underlying Cause of Hit and Run Accidents?
It’s impossible to say what exactly goes through the mind of a hit and run driver in Arkansas in the split seconds after a crash when they actively decide to flee. In that heartbeat they make a choice to commit a criminal act and leave a potentially fatally wounded victim waiting for assistance that may not come in time.
However, the AAA report mentioned above attempted to piece together some rationale for why drivers flee using crash data.
According to the AAA report, “. . . research has found drivers were 4.4 times more likely to flee after hitting a pedestrian between midnight and 4 a.m., in comparison with crashes between 8 a.m. and 11:59 a.m.”
It’s not the time of night that plays a major contributing factor—it’s the type of drivers on the road. Indeed, crash data has consistently shown that late night drivers often have dark secrets to hide. The AAA report goes on to say that “. . . while lower visibility is a likely factor, “nighttime drivers may be involved in more risky behaviors such as driving while intoxicated or without a license. . . ”
These pre-existing criminal activities are more likely to cause an individual to flee after striking another car, a motorcycle, or even a pedestrian.
Arkansas Law Makes Leaving the Scene a Crime
Hit and run crashes in Arkansas are not accidents. They are crimes. While every state in the nation has at least one law on the books that makes fleeing the scene of an accident a crime, Arkansas law goes one step further. Indeed, Arkansas traffic law makes it a crime to fail to offer assistance when involved in a car crash. Indeed, drivers must stay on the scene of an accident and at least attempt to offer assistance to injured victims for at least 30 minutes.
Criminal Charges, Civil Lawsuits
Hit and run accidents in Arkansas are classified as felonies. Indeed, these Class D felonies are punishable by up to six years in prison. In addition, individuals convicted of such heinous crimes can face fines of up to $10,000. However, criminal charges aren’t the only legal action that can be taken against these reckless individuals.
Indeed, in lieu of or in addition to filing claims with an at-fault driver’s insurance company, victims can also seek compensation via personal injury lawsuits. Arkansas law allows for victims to seek civil penalties as compensation for financial losses (usually associated with medical expenses and lost wages) in the event that:
- The at-fault driver is not insured
- The insurance policy coverage is insufficient to fully compensate the victim
- If an insurance company is unwilling to pay an appropriate amount in response to a demand letter
In rare instances, civil lawsuits can even be filed against other parties who share some of the legal liability for a crash but which were not directly linked to the at-fault driver.
Your Hit and Run Accident Attorney in Arkansas
If you’ve been hit by a careless, reckless, or negligent driver who has fled the scene, waiting on the police to catch the criminal and file charges is not your only avenue for legal assistance. Contact an experienced hit and run accident lawyer in Arkansas today. Call the Pfeifer Law Firm at 501-374-4440 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.