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What Evidence is Needed to Convict a Hit And Run Accident?

WRITTEN BY:
Steven Matz
December 14, 2022 | Car Accident, Settlement
  • Key Takeaways:In Michigan, successful hit-and-run cases hinge on solid evidence like eyewitness accounts, video footage, and physical evidence to establish the accident and the accused’s involvement.
  • Victims of hit-and-runs should report the incident, seek medical care, gather evidence, consult a lawyer, and potentially proceed to trial for civil damages, independent of the criminal case outcome.
  • A hit-and-run in Michigan involves leaving an accident scene that caused injury or property damage without reporting to law enforcement, with penalties varying based on the severity of the incident.
  • Criminal hit-and-run cases aim to penalize the offender, but victims must pursue civil claims for compensation for injuries or damages.
  • Matz Injury Law provides specialized legal support in both criminal and civil facets of hit-and-run cases, aiding victims in evidence collection, legal representation, and securing compensation.

 

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.

How to Prove You Were the Victim of a Hit-and-Run

In Michigan, a successful hit-and-run case relies on the collection and presentation of irrefutable evidence. This evidence must:

  1. Establish that an accident occurred;
  2. Link the accused party to the scene and the incident; AND
  3. Prove that their negligence caused the accident.

What Evidence is Needed to Convict in a Hit And Run Claim

The following types of evidence are useful for supporting your hit-and-run claim in Michigan.

  • Eyewitness Testimony: Statements from people who witnessed the accident can provide critical details about the event, the vehicle involved, and the actions of each driver.
  • Surveillance and Dashcam Footage: There may be video evidence of either the hit-and-run accident or the hit-and-run driver fleeing the scene. Video can be used to prove the details of the accident and identify the make, model, and license plate number of the car that hit you.
  • Physical Evidence: This includes any material evidence left at the scene, such as car parts, paint chips, or tire marks, which can be matched to the suspect’s vehicle.
  • Digital and Forensic Evidence: Advanced techniques like analyzing GPS data from the suspect’s vehicle or mobile phone records can place the suspect at the scene.
  • Injury Reports and Damage Assessments: Documentation of your injuries and property damage can help establish the severity of the incident, influencing whether the case is treated as a misdemeanor or a felony.
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Hit-and-Run Cases

After a Michigan hit-and-run accident, you can pursue damages from the hit-and-run driver in civil court at the same time as their criminal trial. Additionally, even if the driver is not found guilty of a criminal offense, they may still be held liable for your compensation in the civil lawsuit.

  1. Police Report: The victim or witnesses should report the incident to the police immediately. The police will investigate and attempt to locate the hit-and-run driver.
  2. Seek Medical Attention: Seek immediate medical attention if you are injured. A doctor can identify and treat your injuries, and the medical documentation is useful evidence of both your injuries and the expenses you incur.
  3. Gather Evidence: Collect as much evidence as possible, such as photos of the scene, contact information of witnesses, and the police report. This evidence will support your case in court.
  4. Consult a Lawyer: It’s important to consult with a Michigan personal injury attorney who has experience with hit-and-run cases. Your lawyer can advise on your legal options, the strength of your case, and your potential for compensation.
  5. File the Lawsuit: Your lawyer will file a complaint in a civil court. This document outlines the legal and factual basis of the claim against the defendant (the hit-and-run driver, if identified).
  6. Service of Process: The defendant must be legally notified of the lawsuit. This is typically done through a process server who delivers the legal documents to the defendant.
  7. Discovery Phase: Both parties exchange information and evidence. This phase may include depositions, requests for documents, and interrogatories.
  8. Negotiations and Mediation: Often, civil cases are settled out of court. Parties may negotiate a settlement or engage in mediation to avoid a trial.
  9. Trial: If a settlement isn’t reached, the case goes to trial. Both sides present their evidence and arguments, and a judge or jury makes a decision.
  10. Judgment and Collection: If the plaintiff wins, the court will issue a judgment for damages. Collecting the judgment may involve additional legal steps, especially if the defendant is uninsured or lacks assets.

Appeals: Either party can appeal the court’s decision if they believe there has been a legal error.

What is Classified as a Hit-and-Run?

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:

  • A driver has been involved in an auto accident.
  • The accident has resulted in personal injury, property damage, or both.
  • The driver leaves the scene without immediately contacting law enforcement or providing their information to any other driver involved in the accident.

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.

What is the Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run?

hit and run Auto accident on michigan state roads

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:

  • Imprisonment of up to 1 year
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Suspension of their driver’s license

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.

What is the Conviction Process for A Felony Hit-and-Run Case?

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:

  • An auto accident occurred
  • The defendant was at fault in the accident
  • The defendant failed to stop at the scene of the accident or notify the police
  • The accident resulted in the death of a person

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.

What Evidence is Valuable in Proving a Hit-and-Run Case in Michigan

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.

Is the Conviction Process for a Hit-and-Run the Same for Misdemeanors?

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.

Why File a Civil Case for a Hit-and-Run?

hit and run accident lawyer discussing case with their client

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.

Do Not Let Reckless Drivers Run Away with Your Rights. Call Now for a Free Consultation

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What evidence is crucial in a Michigan hit-and-run case?

Key evidence includes eyewitness testimony, surveillance and dashcam footage, physical evidence from the scene, digital and forensic data, and injury reports and damage assessments.

What are the steps to take after being a victim of a hit-and-run in Michigan?

Report the incident to the police, seek medical attention, collect evidence, consult with a personal injury attorney, and file a lawsuit for civil damages.

What differentiates a misdemeanor from a felony hit-and-run in Michigan?

The distinction lies in the accident’s severity; misdemeanors involve minor injuries or property damage, while felonies are for serious injuries or fatalities.

Can I still seek compensation if the hit-and-run driver is not found guilty in criminal court?

Yes, you can pursue compensation through a civil lawsuit regardless of the criminal trial outcome, as civil cases have different standards of proof.

What are the potential penalties for a hit-and-run offender in Michigan?

Penalties vary from fines and jail time for misdemeanors to more severe punishments like imprisonment and larger fines for felonies, depending on the accident’s impact.

How is a hit-and-run defined under Michigan law?

A hit-and-run in Michigan occurs when a driver involved in an accident causing injury or property damage leaves the scene without contacting law enforcement or providing their information.

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Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

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.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

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.

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