Following serious hit and run accidents in Queensland, authorities often make public appeals for help. In most cases they will ask anyone with knowledge of the crash to contact them including, of course, the driver who fled the scene. Sadly, Queensland police have had to turn to the public all too often lately. The most recent appeal (on January 24) came hours after an unknown vehicle struck and killed an 18-year-old Geham man who was walking on the New England Highway near the intersection with Reushle Road.
Of course, not all hit and run accidents result in serious injuries or death. Some just cause property damage. In any case, here’s what you should do if you have been involved in this type of accident.
In Queensland, you must report a motor vehicle accident to the police if:
- someone was hurt;
- someone died;
- property damage is greater than, or is likely to be greater than, $2,500.
Section 92 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 also mandates that any motorist involved an incident that results in a death or injury must:
- stop immediately;
- stay at the scene;
- provide reasonable help to injured persons;
- make reasonable efforts to get medical help and other applicable assistance for injured persons;
- demonstrate proper decorum for the body of a deceased person;
- take appropriate steps to have the body transferred to a suitable place.
The only exceptions to this are if the driver leaves to:
- get medical help or other assistance for an injured person;
- get help having a deceased person’s body relocated to a suitable place.
Consequences for failure to comply
Under Section 92 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 the punishment upon conviction for leaving the scene of the accident as detailed above is 20 penalty units or one year imprisonment if no one was hurt or killed. The maximum penalty, imposed for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident where someone was hurt or killed, is 120 penalty units or three years imprisonment.
Furthermore, anyone convicted of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident where there are fatalities or injuries will not be able to hold or obtain a Queensland driver’s licence for at least six months. You should be aware that the court has no discretion regarding driver disqualification in these circumstances.
As long as there is sufficient proof, a court will also impose some period of imprisonment as part of the sentence for anyone who has “showed a callous disregard for the needs of a person injured in the incident”.
Tips for hit and run accident victims
Now let’s talk about what you should do and, just as importantly, what you should not do, if another motorist hit your vehicle and fled the scene.
To begin with, do not try to take matters into your own hands. Do not pursue or try to confront the other driver. Instead, remain calm and try to gather as much information as possible. Specifically, you should try to get the vehicle’s registration number and a description of the driver and their vehicle.
Do not forget to report the accident to police and make sure you can get a copy of the accident report. While on the scene, try to gather all relevant information from any witnesses. This includes their names, phone numbers and any other contact information they are willing to provide. Be sure to take note of any details they can provide about the other vehicle and driver, too.
If at all possible, use your smartphone to document the accident scene. This should include the damage to your vehicle along with any other property damage, such as fallen trees, bent light poles, broken fences and so forth. While you are at it, see if any nearby shops, businesses or residences have surveillance cameras that may have captured the accident.
Finally, do not forget to contact your insurance company to get the claims process started.
If you were hurt…
If you were hurt in a motor vehicle accident where the other driver fled the scene, it is crucial that you get medical attention as soon as possible. This is important not only for your wellbeing but also for your insurance claim and any other legal action you may take.
If you are unable to document the scene as detailed above, ask someone with you to document the scene for you. If that’s not possible, try to visit the scene as soon as you are able to after the accident, or ask a friend or family member to do so for you.
Something else to keep in mind is that the process for initiating a claim for compensation through the other driver’s insurance provider is also different in a hit and run accident. If you get their registration number, in Queensland simply provide it to the Motor Accident Insurance Commission. It can use the information to verify the driver’s identity and their CTP insurer. This allows you to seek compensation for your injuries and damages directly through that insurer.
Even if the at-fault driver cannot be identified, all is not lost. This is because there’s another way to initiate a compensation claim for your injuries against the ‘Nominal Defendant’. Specifically, you can do so through a government insurance program. This particular program provides financial protection to injured victims in these cases.
It’s also important to note that a strict time limit applies to bringing this kind of claim. In Queensland, a claim form must be lodged within three months of the date of the accident and no later than nine months from when it happened. There is no possibility of making a claim against the nominal defendant in Queensland if you do not meet the nine-month time limit.
Keep in mind this program differs throughout Australia. Therefore it is important to get proper legal advice before pursuing this option.
Do not be afraid to pursue all legal options
Even if pursuing a claim against a Nominal Defendant seems like a hassle, it may be worthwhile. If you are eligible to file this sort of claim and you are successful, you may receive compensation for:
- medical costs;
- rehabilitation costs (such as physiotherapy and similar treatment);
- loss of income or reduction of your income due to the inability to work;
- the cost of home modifications associated with your injury (such as wheelchair ramps, grab rails, and so forth);
- home care costs;
- pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life (in some cases).
Of course, every situation is different. If you were involved in a hit and run accident and you want to learn more about your rights, contact our Gold Coast personal injury lawyers through our website, by email at email@example.com, or by phone at (07) 5627 0321.