Tennessee law requires any driver involved in an accident with another vehicle to stop as soon as it is safe to do so and exchange identification and insurance information if there has been property damage. If someone is injured or killed in the accident, the driver has a duty to try to help the injured person and to report the accident to the authorities. Drivers who leave the scene of a fatal accident can be charged with felony hit and run. Still, criminal charges are only part of the story after a fatal accident.
Tennessee State Police said recently that they were searching for a driver who fled after a fatal car accident on Interstate-24. Police said a Chevy Tahoe SUV was driving the wrong way on the highway when it struck another car head-on. A 31-year-old woman in the car was killed. Police said the driver of the SUV fled the scene. Police said they were searching for a 25-year-old Nashville man in connection with the accident.
According to some reports, hit and run drivers are involved in between 3.5 and 4.5 percent of fatal accidents every year in the United States. In many cases, these drivers are probably intoxicated at the time of the crash, but by the time police arrest them they have sobered up and so prosecutors cannot prove that they were driving while drunk. In some cases, this may even mean that the hit and run drivers actually get a lower sentence than they would if they stayed at the scene of the accident, as they are required to do.
Criminal charges are important for the cause of justice after a fatal hit and run accident, but there are other legal ways to hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions and to compensate families for the loss of their loved ones. When a Tennessee resident is injured by a negligent driver, the injured may be compensated for damages through a personal injury lawsuit. In the case of a fatal accident, the victim's family may be compensated through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death lawsuits are filed on behalf of the victim's estate and any award goes to the estate, to be distributed to the person's heirs through a will or Tennessee's laws of inheritance. These lawsuits are emotionally difficult and sometimes technically complicated, but they can be very important tools for the cause of justice after a fatal accident caused by another driver's negligence.
Source: Detroit News, "Study: Younger women more likely to die in equivalent crashes," David Shepardson, May 24, 2013