If you have suffered personal injury or experienced property damage because of a hit and run, you are probably wondering about how the process works for fixing your damages. You may be able to obtain compensation from the driver who caused the car accident through a civil claim, but first you must know who they are. You might have to find that information through the criminal justice process. A criminal case for a hit-and-run is harder to win than you might think, though, because of the large amount of evidence needed to prove the driver’s guilt.
Matz Injury Law has experience with both civil personal injury claims and criminal hit-and-run cases. Let us help you in both criminal and civil hearings to repair the damages caused to you and your property. To set up a free consultation, call us at 1-866-226-6833.
Michigan law requires any driver who has been involved in an auto accident to stop in a conspicuous place at the scene of the accident to wait for law enforcement to arrive. They are also expected to provide reasonable assistance to anyone in need. If a driver believes that remaining at the scene of the accident is not safe, either for themselves or others, they may not leave the scene until they have contacted the police. A hit-and-run accident occurs when:
Drivers involved in an auto accident that results in neither injury nor property damage still have a legal duty to stop and wait for the police. State law, however, does not provide the state with any way to enforce that obligation. As a result, an accident is only legally considered a hit-and-run when some kind of harm has occurred.
The key difference between a misdemeanor hit and run and a felony offense is the extent of damage caused in the accident. A person may be charged with and convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense for leaving the scene of an accident regardless of whether they were at fault. In certain situations, however, the penalties for hit-and-run charges are much more serious if the driver was at fault for the accident.
Misdemeanor hit-and-runs involve property damage or relatively minor bodily injury. A person who leaves the scene of an accident that only results in damage to a motor vehicle is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $100. If the accident resulted in injury to a person, whether they were a motorist, passenger, or bystander, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor and could face:
Felony hit-and-runs occur when serious injury or death occurs due to the accident. If a driver who was not at fault for the accident leaves the scene where someone suffered “serious impairment of a body function or death,” they are guilty of a felony and could face a maximum of five years of imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, or both. A driver who was at fault in an accident that resulted in a fatality faces stiffer penalties for leaving the scene of up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
In any criminal case, the prosecutor has the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the most difficult burden of proof in our legal system. Since criminal charges can result in jail time and other penalties, it is important the prosecutors produce as much evidence as possible to establish guilt.
A criminal charge alleging the most serious type of felony requires evidence of the following:
For the lower level of felony hit-and-run, the prosecution does not have to prove that the defendant was at fault for the accident. They do, however, have to prove that the accident caused someone to suffer serious injuries.
Evidence such as witness statements, photographs or videos of the accident or the accident scene, and circumstantial evidence like tire tread marks matching the defendant’s vehicle can help the prosecutor establish that the defendant was involved or at fault in the accident.
The police officer who responded to the accident could testify that the defendant was not present at the scene. An eyewitness could testify that they saw a vehicle with a license plate number that matches the defendant’s vehicle fleeing the area. Other criminal charges could also support the prosecutor’s case, such as if the defendant has prior arrests or convictions for hit-and-run, DUI, or other offenses involving motor vehicles.
The injured person can testify about their injuries if they can do so. Their doctors can testify about the injured person’s medical treatment and the impact their injuries will have on their life.
Once the prosecutor has presented all of the state’s evidence, the defendant puts on their case. The main job of a criminal defense attorney is to convince a jury or judge that reasonable doubt exists as to whether their client is guilty. The defense lawyer may call their own witnesses and present their own evidence.
The general procedure for misdemeanors and felonies in Michigan is the same, although each court may have its own procedures for certain matters. The prosecutor still has the burden of proving guilt, with the main difference being that they only need to prove that injury or property damage occurred, as opposed to serious injury or death.
While the procedures and legal requirements are the same for felony and misdemeanor hit-and-run cases, one important difference involves whether police and prosecutors will be willing or able to commit the resources to a case. Police are more likely to investigate, and prosecutors are more likely to seek a conviction in a case where someone died.
Criminal hit-and-run cases in Michigan may result in fines and jail or prison time for a defendant. They do not result in any sort of compensation for someone who suffered injury or property damage. To obtain damages for losses like medical expenses or lost wages, a civil claim for personal injury is necessary.
An injured person might be able to get damages from the defendant’s insurance company. They can recover from their own insurance company under Michigan’s no-fault law. If they cannot negotiate a settlement with an insurer, it might be necessary to file a civil lawsuit.
Steven and Jared Matz are compassionate and dedicated auto accident attorneys with years of experience. Matz Injury Law has helped accident victims and their loved ones throughout Michigan recover damages for motor vehicle accident injuries. To schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable Michigan car accident lawyer from our dedicated team, contact the firm today online or by phone at 866-226-6833.
Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.
The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.
We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.
We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.
All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.
At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.