A lawsuit has been filed against the fire chief of Winston-Salem, as well as the city, after a hit-and-run plaintiffs say was caused by someone driving a pickup truck registered to the chief.
The bizarre series of events began in late March, when plaintiff was driving with a passenger and passenger’s daughter on South Maine Street near Pasadena Drive. Suddenly, a dark-colored pickup truck rear-ended her vehicle. The impact of the crash caused total damage to the vehicle and minor injuries to vehicle occupants, who noted a large “Dodge” sticker on the rear window of the offending vehicle. However, it all happened so fast, no one in plaintiff’s vehicle was able to get the license plate number.
A responding officer left the three women at the roadside around midnight to search for the offending vehicle. When plaintiff called dispatch 45 minutes later to see if the officer might return, the officer instructed plaintiff to drive her totaled vehicle to her home. He later said he could not find the offending vehicle.
Several months later, plaintiff saw a truck matching the description of the one that struck her. It had sustained heavy damage to the front. She called 911, and police traced the vehicle back to the fire chief’s house. Police would later issue a statement indicating the truck that struck plaintiff’s vehicle was registered to the fire chief. Meanwhile, the chief has denied any involvement in the crash, yet has refused to make the vehicle available for inspection.
Our Winston-Salem accident lawyers understand this prompted the lawsuit against the chief and the city. Her amended complaint alleges not only did the fire chief hit her vehicle and then flee, city officials actively hindered the investigation.
These are serious allegations, and it’s important to note the chief has not been criminally charged with any offense. Still, the whole incident is an opportunity to discuss the issue of hit-and-run accidents. Most of the time, people flee a crash scene because they are impaired or lack a valid driver’s license. Most feel they have a great deal to lose – either their freedom or a prestigious position.
A recent report from USA Today indicates fatal hit-and-run crashes are trending upward. There were 1,274 reported in 2009, up to 1,393 in 2010 and then up to 1,449 in 2011. This represents a nearly 14 percent increase, while the number of overall traffic deaths fell by 4.5 percent during that same time frame.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, meanwhile, found 1 in 5 pedestrian fatalities were hit-and-runs, and some 60 percent of hit-and-run deaths involve pedestrian victims.
The greatest common denominator, traffic safety advocates say, is alcohol.
In May, AAA of the Carolinas determined 1,663 hit-and-run accidents were reported in North Carolina in just 2012 – a 5.7 percent increase from a year earlier. Of the 91 fatal hit-and-run crashes that occurred between 2010 and 2011, the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center found 51 were pedestrians.
Victims of hit-and-run crashes do have options for compensation coverage. (Unlike the victim in this case, most don’t locate the perpetrator many months later. A fair number are never found, and even when they are, they may lack sufficient insurance.) This is where uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can become a lifeline.
UM coverage is additional benefit through your own auto insurer that makes up for the cost of whatever the at-fault driver could not pay. It’s frequently used by crash victims who do not know the identity of the at-fault driver, due to hit-and-run. Ensuring you receive the full policy limits can be an arduous task, often requiring intervention from a competent legal professional.
If you need help ascertaining the best course of action following a crash, call us today.
Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Lawsuit filed against Winston-Salem fire chief over March hit-and-run accident, Nov. 18, 2014, By Michael Hewlett, Winston-Salem Journal
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