Will He Get Away With Hit-And-Run?

Police have few clues after a serious hit-and-run crash killed a pedestrian in Lake Charles.

The wreck occurred in the early morning hours on Highway 14 near Prien Lake Road. According to police, a male pedestrian, whose name was not released, was walking toward a local convenience store when an unknown four-door vehicle struck him. The vehicle promptly fled the area; the pedestrian was later declared dead at the scene.

A Lake Charles Police Department spokesperson said that investigators hoped to use video surveillance from the scene to track down the vehicle.

Identifying Hit-And-Run Drivers

About half of these individuals are eventually prosecuted, either because they are captured or they voluntarily surrender. In situations like the above story, where there are no live witnesses and few leads, it may seem unlikely that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) will be caught. So, to increase the odds, an attorney often partners with a private investigator. This individual will do things like:

  • Inquire at local body shops to look for vehicles with front-end damage,
  • Canvass the neighborhood for additional witnesses,
  • Monitor the area on an ongoing basis, in case the vehicle comes back into the area, and
  • Look for additional physical evidence at the scene.

There is a lower standard of proof in civil proceedings – a preponderance of the evidence – than there is in criminal court. So, a plaintiff can generally establish liability based on vehicle ownership. If the defendant owns a four-door blue sedan and has no alibi for the time of the crash, the jury can conclude that, more likely than not, the defendant was the negligent driver.

Other Legal Issues

If the hit-and-run driver was alcohol-impaired, punitive damages may be a possibility. These additional damages are designed to punish the tortfeasor and deter future wrongdoing. Juries are often eager to punish hit-and-run drivers and may assess large punitive damages if given the opportunity. Under state law, these additional damages can be up to ten times the amount of compensatory damages. In Louisiana, “compensatory damages” normally include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages, and noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress and loss of enjoyment in life.

Even if the tortfeasor is not identified, injured victims may still have a legal remedy. In most cases, these victims may file claims against their own insurance companies for damages. The case proceeds like any other, but instead of a trial, most of these matters wind up in a binding arbitration procedure.

Hit-and-run wrecks create many factual and legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorney, contact Hoffoss Devall. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.