Hit-And-Run Victims: Next Steps and Claiming Compensation
Immediately after the occurrence of a motor accident, and especially when the accident results in an injury to a person or damage to property, there are several important things that you have to do first. This includes exchanging information with the other party involved in the accident.
But, what if you find yourself after an accident and the other party is nowhere to be found?
This article aims to inform victims of hit-and-run accidents about the duties of the at-fault drivers, as well as the possible recourse to be taken by victims when they find themselves in this situation.
What is Hit-And-Run?
Under section 84 of the Road Traffic Act (RTA), there is a primary obligation for the driver who causes a motor vehicle accident to stop their vehicle immediately. This is even if the collision happens with a stationary or parked vehicle and that vehicle’s owner is nowhere in sight.
If the driver flees the scene of the accident, this is considered a hit-and-run.
What are the Duties of the At-Fault Driver in Case of an Accident?
- Stop the vehicle.
- Provide their particulars to the victim(s) of the accident, including passengers or pedestrians, upon request. If there is no person present at the scene of the accident, the driver must take reasonable steps to provide his particulars, so they can be contacted by the owner of the vehicle or structure damaged in the accident. For example, the driver may leave a note on the windshield of the damaged vehicle.
- Report the accident to the police within 24 hours from occurrence, unless the:
- Driver has already exchanged relevant information as stated above; or
- Owner of the damaged vehicle/structure has contacted the at-fault driver who had reasonably provided his particulars when there was no person present at the scene of the accident.
- Render assistance, especially in cases where the accident results in death or injury to another person. Assistance may depend on the extent of the injury and the capability of the driver at the time. If the victim requires immediate medical attention, then an ambulance must be called right away.
- DO NOT MOVE the vehicle(s) involved in the accident, unless necessary to extricate persons or animals involved in the accident. Goods may be removed from the vehicle(s) but only under the supervision of a police officer.
What are the Penalties for Hit-And-Run Drivers?
Failure to comply with the duties mentioned above may hold the at-fault driver liable to a fine up to $3,000 and/or to imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months if the driver had caused serious injury or death to another person. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to 2 years.
The at-fault driver will also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for up to 12 months, unless the court has special reasons to order otherwise.
The penalty for hit-and-run will be meted out in addition to any other penalty where the driver is found liable of committing another offence related to the accident.
For example, if the driver is found to have been drink-driving before committing the hit-and-run, he/she may be liable for a fine of between $2,000 and $10,000 and/or up to 1 year’s jail, in addition to the penalty for hit-and-run.
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Apparently, it’s “human nature” to run instead of stopping to help ? – #ICYMI: An American driver has escaped jail after knocking down a Singaporean student in the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in New York and driving away on 1 Nov 2018. ? ?As a result of the incident, the victim suffered traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull and pelvis and spent several weeks in hospital. – The driver was caught 2 weeks later. However, she escaped jail as the judge decided she had shown a “sufficient level of remorse” by writing the victim an apology letter after being caught. ? ?To the judge, the setting in of “human nature” and “panic” didn’t excuse the accident, but still helped to explain it. So while the driver could have been jailed up to 1 year for leaving the scene of an incident without reporting it, she was given a 1-year conditional discharge and 150 hours of community service instead. – Similar accident reporting laws exist in Singapore: under the Road Traffic Act, drivers who knock people down are required to stop and help. ? They must also provide their particulars upon request. If they have not provided their particulars, they must report the accident to the police within 24 hours of its occurrence instead of keeping quiet about it. If a driver had caused serious injury or death to the victim but hadn’t complied with these duties, such as by fleeing the scene, the driver can be fined up to $3,000 and/or jailed up to 12 months for a first offence. They may also be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months. – The driver in the University at Buffalo hit-and-run has said that she “shouldn’t have been a coward”, and that she should have done something. Fortunately, the victim has recovered and returned to school. We’re glad that she’s all right now ?#SingaporeLegalAdvice
I’m a Victim of a Hit-And-Run Accident, What can I Do?
In instances where you find yourself a victim of a motor vehicle accident and the other party is nowhere to be found, there are several things you can do, depending on the extent of damage or injury resulting from the accident.
Make a police report
If you are able to, call the police and make a police report straightaway.
Make sure that report made contains as much detail as possible about the incident and the damage or injury caused by the at-fault driver.
This is important because the information recorded in the police report may be submitted as a supporting document when making claims for compensation.
Make claims for compensation
Since a hit-and-run is essentially a motor accident, there are several ways to settle claims in order to pay for hospitalisation bills or to repair the damage to your vehicle.
It must be noted that these claims are separate from the liability of the at-fault driver for violation of the RTA (i.e. the penalties mentioned above).
Claims to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB)
If you don’t know the particulars of the at-fault driver or the at-fault driver is found to be uninsured, you can make a claim to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) if the accident has resulted in bodily injury.
However, such an application can only be made after making reasonable enquiries to determine if the at-fault driver is untraced (i.e. his/her records have not been found) or uninsured.
These enquiries may include, but are not limited to:
- Contacting the uninsured at-fault driver;
- Confirming with the police that the accident has been reported; and
- Obtaining details of the registration of the at-fault driver’s vehicle from the Land Transportation Authority.
An application to the MIB must be submitted in writing through the prescribed form, along with medical reports and other supporting documents/evidence (see below), within 3 years from accident’s date.
Additionally, if the at-fault driver is uninsured, MIB may require you to obtain a court judgment against him.
Once your application has been submitted, MIB will conduct the necessary investigations to decide on the outcome of the claim. This may include interviewing you to obtain a full statement on the details of the hit-and-run as well as the injuries caused to you, or visiting the accident scene.
Upon which, MIB may either make a claim to you, or reduce/reject your claim if the evidence from the investigation shows that you’re partly or fully responsible for the accident (see below on contributory negligence).
Claims against your insurer
You can also make a claim against your insurer, but do check if your insurance policy includes an “excess” clause.
This may limit the amount that the insurer will be willing to pay out since the insurer will only pay the amount of the damage in excess of the amount that you yourself will have to shoulder, as stated in the clause.
Making a claim against your insurer may also result in the loss of your No-Claims Discount (NCD) and may increase the price of your premium.
The NCD is an entitlement provided to the insured wherein if no claim has been made under the insurance policy for a year or more with the current insurer, then the insured shall be given a reduced amount for the premium that he has to pay for the following year upon renewal.
If the accident also happens due to drink-driving, it may be harder to make insurance claims as drink-driving is a common exclusion in motor insurance policies.
To file a claim against your insurer, report the accident to your insurer within 24 hours, send your damaged vehicle to one of your insurer’s authorised workshops and submit your claim at that workshop.
You may also include claims based on personal injuries caused by the accident under the motor insurance policy.
Claims against the at-fault driver
If the at-fault driver is identified and arrested, you may also make a claim against him directly by suing him/her for damages or filing a third-party claim through your insurer.
Under the MCF, insurers are also required to assist policyholders in making third-party claims.
Upon sending your damaged vehicle to an authorised workshop, the workshop will help you liaise with the third-party’s insurer and submit your claim after preparing the repair estimate and, if necessary, arrange for the inspection of your vehicle by a surveyor.
Documents that may be submitted in support of your motor claims are:
- Police report
- Accident report
- Photographs or videos showing accident and damage caused
- Repair bills and receipts
- Medical report, medical bills and receipts
- Independent Surveyor’s report, or
- Any other documents that may substantiate your claims
You may make a claim for general or special damages. General damages compensate you for pain and suffering as a result of injuries obtained from the accident. Special damages include compensation for repairs costs for your damaged vehicle or medical costs.
For more information, you may refer to our article on how to make a personal injury claim.
It is highly advised that you be represented by an authorised lawyer if you decide to resort to this particular measure. This is especially considering that a valid defence against a traffic accident claim is contributory negligence, where your own negligence had contributed to the accident, e.g. due to you jaywalking.
If you are found to have been contributorily negligent, this may significantly lower the value of compensation granted to the victim. A lawyer would be able to advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
Should I consider resorting to a private settlement?
A private settlement in a motor accident is a resolution between the parties involved, including compensation for repairs to damaged vehicles, that does not involve the insurers.
While a private settlement may be opted for so that you do not lose your NCD, please note that under the MCF, any accident must be reported to your insurer within 24 hours even if there is no visible damage.
If you accept a private settlement without notifying your insurer or submitting a duly signed Mutual Settlement Form/Agreement to your insurer, this may be considered as a breach of insurance policy which can void your insurance contract, or give your insurer a reason to repudiate liability (i.e. to say that they will not accept liability for the damage you’ve sustained from the accident).
As a result, you will no longer be protected by the insurance policy and have to pay for your own repair costs, as well as any third-party claims against you.
Do I Need to Gather Evidence After a Hit-And-Run Accident?
Definitely. It is advised that you gather as much information as you can of the scene of the accident as this may be beneficial in making your claim for compensation.
Take pictures of the accident scene and the surrounding areas from different angles, especially the damage to your vehicle or any surrounding structures.
Without the at-fault party at the scene, it is important to note if there are witnesses to the accident who may help identify the at-fault driver or the licence plate of the hit-and-run vehicle. A witness report may also be used as supporting document in making claims.
Under the Information Booklet on Police Procedures, a witness to a hit-and-run accident may call 999 immediately and report the following information:
- Registration number of the hit-and-run vehicle;
- Colour, make and model of the hit-and-run vehicle;
- Description e.g. race, gender, etc. of the driver; and
- The direction the hit-and-run vehicle was last seen heading towards.
If you are having trouble finding a witness to the accident, some online platforms exist which can match victims to witnesses of traffic accidents.
In these platforms, accident victims and witnesses may submit details of motor accidents that occurred which they were a part of or they were a witness to, including the location, date and time. Other witnesses to the incident may then submit photos or videos they have of the accident to assist in your investigation.
You may also note if there are CCTV cameras located near the scene of the accident, which may have recorded video footage, so you can obtain a copy as evidence.
Where the Victim has Passed Away, can His Family Members Make a Claim?
Yes, they can. In cases where the death was caused by a wrongful act or neglect, family members left by the deceased as enumerated under the Civil Law Act may claim for bereavement damages up to $15,000.
In awarding damages, the court may also take into account the value of the benefits the deceased’s dependants would have likely received from the deceased had he lived.
What if the Hit-And-Run Driver is a Foreigner and Flies Back to His Home Country Before Being Caught?
As a general rule, traffic offences such as reckless or dangerous driving or hit-and-run are NOT extraditable crimes. As a result, such offences generally cannot be made the basis of a request that a foreigner be extradited to Singapore to face liability.
However, if the offender flees to Malaysia, he/she may be extradited since reckless driving is considered a seizable offence which Malaysia is willing to extradite offenders to Singapore for.
The duty to stop in case of a traffic accident is more than a mere legal duty. This is a civic duty that takes into account our responsibility to each other and with regard to any damage we may not have been intending to cause.
Hit-and-run incidents happen oftentimes because the at-fault driver intends to escape responsibility even if there was no intention to do harm in the first place.
If you find yourself being a victim of a hit-and-run, there are definite ways to still exact accountability even if the other party actively chooses otherwise. Consider consulting a personal injury lawyer if you require legal assistance in this regard.
- Hit-And-Run Victims: Next Steps and Claiming Compensation
- Making Claims for Motor Accidents
- How to Claim from Third-Party Insurance Companies in Motor Accidents
- Defending Claims for Motor Accidents
- Guidelines for Assessing Liability of Parties in Traffic Accidents
- Entering into a Private Settlement For Car Accidents in Singapore
- Prevent yourself/your insurer from being the next victim of motor insurance fraud
- What happens if you drive under the influence of medication?
- Accident In Malaysia: What To Do As A Driver