States differ as to the seriousness of a hit and run offense. However, in nearly every state, if an accident occurs, the parties must stop and exchange information. If there is damage to an unattended vehicle, a note must be left informing the owner of the damaged vehicle and providing appropriate information. If there is an injury, there is a legal mandate that conscientious aid must be rendered to the injured party. Emergency services must be called if needed. The injured person should be attended to as long as needed. In every case, leaving the scene of an accident without giving information or providing appropriate aid is a criminal offense.
New York hit and run accidents, defined as leaving the scene of an accident without reporting, are considered traffic offenses punishable by a traffic summons. However, if there is personal injury involved, it becomes a misdemeanor. These misdemeanors are tried and usually punished by fines or community service sentences, but jail time can be ordered by the judge.
According to data published in USA Today, incidence of hit and run injuries on pedestrians has been increasing. A few years ago, about one in five of pedestrian fatalities have been hit and runs. It’s also very difficult to determine how many hit and run drivers have been caught by police. Richard Ashton of the International Association of Chiefs of Police noted a few years ago "Even if you’re lucky enough to get the car, you can’t always get the driver." Investigation of hit and run cases are among the most difficult of police investigations.
Apparently, there is no New York tally of how many hit and run cases are solved. Nearly one quarter of hit and runs are committed by people driving without a license. A high percentage are under the influence of intoxicants.
Ironically, tightening laws against impaired driving may be pushing up the likelihood of hit and runs. According to police authorities, in many investigations when the drivers are found they tell police that they simply fled out of fear because they had been drinking and wanted to avoid legal trouble.
The difficulty in finding the perpetrators of hit and run accidents impinges on the potential for civil action on the part of victims. Most insurance will cover damages from hit and runs if the insurance company is contacted right away. But pursuit of the offending driver for compensation could be very demanding.