January 24, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- New law increases penalty for fatal hit-and-run accidents
Leaving the scene of an accident has always been a serious offense. Now, drivers who flee the scene in Pennsylvania face even tougher penalties under a law designed to punish drivers involved in fatal hit-and-run accidents.
Details of the new law
A fatal accident in 2005, involving a 29-year-old man who was hit while riding his bicycle by a driver who fled the scene, prompted the new law, which went into effect in September 2012.
Previously classified as a third-degree felony, fatal hit-and-runs carried maximum sentences of seven years. Now they are considered a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, making the criminal charge and potential punishment for any accident where a driver causes a fatality, whether he or she is sober or driving drunk.
The law was written to close a loophole in the previous law that tacitly encouraged drunk drivers to flee the scene and return when sober to take advantage of the lesser punishment for a hit-and-run accident.
Supporters of the law say it holds individuals accountable for their actions and helps protect potential victims. They note that although the stiffer penalty may not guarantee less hit-and-run accidents, the punishments for drunk and sober drivers are now consistent.
In an e-mail to StreetsBlog.org -- a blog dedicated to all things related to sustainable transportation, including improving the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders -- Sarah Clark Stuart, campaign director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, called the legislation good news for pedestrians and cyclists.
Detractors do not believe the new law goes far enough
The lukewarm response to the law has to do with a difference in mandatory sentencing between someone who hits a pedestrian or cyclist while driving drunk and someone who flees the scene and is caught later. Someone who flees the scene of an accident and is later caught or turns himself or herself in might only serve a mandatory minimum sentence of one year, while someone who hits a pedestrian or bicyclist while driving under the influence will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of three years.
While Clark Stuart's e-mail to StreetsBlog.org was supportive of the new law, she also expressed disappointment that the difference in the minimum mandatory sentencing means the loophole, while smaller, is still in place.
Tips for accident victims
If you were hurt or someone you love was fatally injured in a car/pedestrian or car/bicyclist accident, make a detailed record of everything that happened before, during and after the accident -- and do it as soon as possible while the incident is still fresh in your mind. Make sure to include the following:
-All parties involved
-Time and place of the accident
-Weather conditions at the time of the accident
Additionally, write down any experiences or feelings about the accident. Note anything that was said by other parties because this information may prove helpful down the road.
Document all injuries as well. Make a list of:
-Past and future medical treatment
Remember that accidents often affect work, personal and social life. Record any negative developments in these areas due to the accident. Do not forget to include any missed time from work and any important plans that were canceled because of the accident.
An individual who is injured in a car accident can benefit from seeking the services of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Article provided by McCarthy Weisberg Cummings, P.C.
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