CJ’s Law, designed to increase criminal penalties for hit and run accidents in Georgia, goes into effect this month. Although the law strengthens criminal punishments for hit and runs, victims should also seek civil penalties against responsible drivers. That’s where having an experienced Atlanta, Georgia automobile accident attorney is essential.
CJ’s Law is named for Charles E. Jones, 23, who was struck by a hit and run driver in 2009. The driver left CJ alone in the roadway to suffer from his injuries. Another vehicle then struck and killed CJ. The first driver was never identified.
Georgia law already requires that if a driver hits someone, they have to stop and call 911. Failure to do so is a crime. The penalty for a hit and run accident was previously up to five years in prison. It is now up to 10 years.
The legislation signals that Georgia is taking these kinds of accidents more seriously. But the consequences of hit and run accidents, even in non-fatal cases, are severe. Victims may be hospitalized and treated for their injuries. They typically endure painful recoveries and physical therapy and lose time from work during their healing. In the worst cases, like CJ’s, accident victims lose their lives. Atlanta, Georgia automobile accident attorneys understand this and will work to get you compensation for your losses.
In addition to stopping at the accident scene and calling 911, anyone who strikes a pedestrian or another vehicle must:
If you or a loved one were struck by a hit and run driver, your next steps are critical. First, of course, you need to seek immediate medical attention. Even if you believe you’re not hurt, there may be underlying physical injuries that have not yet manifested themselves. These injuries could become worse over time if not treated.
Next, call the police and make a police report. You will need a copy of this report later to pursue civil damages. But the police report also enables law enforcement to find and arrest the hit and run driver.
Let law enforcement do its job in finding the driver, but don’t be afraid to compile evidence on your own. If you were in a vehicle when you were hit, take photos or video of your automobile. Regardless, take photos of the accident scene and the exact spot where you or your loved one were hit.
Your next step should be to contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia automobile accident attorney. An attorney can work with you on reconstructing what happened and locating evidence. For example, witnesses who stopped to give assistance may be of help. Sometimes, witnesses only come on the scene later without seeing the driver. You should still get their names and contact information.
A witness may be reluctant to get involved with your case. That’s why having an attorney can help. Although the witness may be hesitant to speak with you, he or she may be comfortable talking to a lawyer. An experienced attorney will also know what questions to ask and what information can help your case.
If you were in an area with surveillance cameras, you may be able to obtain video footage of the accident. This footage can help locate the driver so you can hold that person criminally and civilly liable. It’s not always easy to obtain surveillance footage, however, especially if it’s operated by a municipality. Here, again, having an Atlanta, Georgia accident attorney can prove critical. Your lawyer will work to get any and all surveillance videos that may help your case.
The passage of CJ’s Law is welcome news to victims of hit and run accidents. If you’re a victim, you need aggressive legal representation to get the compensation you deserve. Call our office today and let us discuss your legal options with you.