There are two types of accidents (between vehicles) where the guilty driver of one vehicle leaves after causing damage to another person or vehicle. The first scenario involves an accident caused by someone who makes physical contact with the victim’s vehicle, which is commonly called a hit-and-run. Less common, but not any less severe, is the phantom vehicle accident. A phantom vehicle accident is caused by someone without actually making contact with the other vehicle.  These accidents can involve motorists, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. As a cyclist you are at the bottom of the vehicle food chain, and you are the most vulnerable vehicle on the road. As such, hit-and-run and phantom vehicle accidents happen far too easily and often and the dangers can be far more serious than for those in bigger vehicles.

Hit-and-Run Accidents

Under Utah Code §41-6-401, an individual involved in an accident must stop as close to the scene as possible and remain there until they have exchanged information with any other parties involved including the authorities. If one of the parties leaves the accident, they will be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, facing up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Hit-and-run accidents, therefore, are considered by the law to be blatant crimes.  If the accident involves serious injury, the perpetrator could be charged with a 3rd degree felony with a potential 5 year prison sentence and up to $5,000 in fines. Statistics show that these types of accidents are generally increasing every year. One study suggests that the increase of hit-and-run accidents is due to the increasing number of unlicensed drivers and drivers under the influence. The perpetrators in hit-and-run accidents generally are more concerned with the pending charges against them than they are about the welfare of the victim they are leaving behind.

Phantom Vehicles

Phantom vehicles are those that leave the scene of an accident where they may or may not have made contact with another individual or vehicle. For example, a cyclist could be cut off by a car without being warned, causing the cyclist to crash without ever having touched the cyclist directly. In order to be held responsible legally, however, the phantom vehicle driver’s careless actions must be corroborated by something other than the victim’s account. Evidence left behind at the scene or an additional eye witness testimony must be used in order for the victim to have a legitimate claim. Phantom vehicle drivers are not as nefarious as hit-and-run drivers. These drivers may not notice what they have done, yet the penalty is the same for them.

Involving the Insurance Company

If you are the victim of a hit-and-run or phantom vehicle accident, you will certainly involve the police and your insurance company just as you would if you were in any other type of vehicle accident. The authorities will try to identify the driver who fled, but if that person is never found, they will be treated as an “uninsured motorist” (UM). Damages and medical costs incurred will then be taken from the UM coverage in your own auto insurance policy.

Hit-and-Run Reward Program

Here at Christensen and Hymas we offer up to $1,000 for any information leading to the arrest and convictions of hit-and-run drivers. Witnesses to hit-and-run accidents can call the Hit-and-Run Reward Program “We Tip” crime hotline at 1-800-644-8678.

Photo courtesy of: IntangibleArts