Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty on January 28, 2015, issued a reminder to all commonwealth drivers that they have legal, moral and ethical obligations to remain at the scene of accidents. "If you have or think you have struck a person, another vehicle, or property," he said before introducing a list of several hit-and-run collision investigations that troopers have not been able to resolve since mid-December, "then you are required to stop at the scene. You are required to render aid if necessary or if you are able to, and remain at the scene until a trooper, officer or deputy arrives. The fact that this many drivers are striking a fellow human being and leaving that individual in the roadway to die and, in several cases, be struck again by other vehicles, is not just illegal but inhumane."
No such appeal to drivers' basic senses of responsibility and humanity should be necessary, of course. While no one welcomes the legal and insurance consequences of causing property damage, injuries or deaths, no other person should ever suffer harm or loss due to another's negligence or recklessness. Driving off before police and emergency responders arrive leaves victims facing long periods of physical, financial and emotional recovery without any sense of justice and no monetary compensation.
On the same day the state police chief called on drivers to live up to their obligations to fellow Virginians, news reports out of Arlington County highlighted exactly why Flaherty's message must not fall on deaf ears. According to county law enforcement officials, a woman behind the wheel of an SUV on January 27 ran over a man who had suffered an earlier problem and was lying in the roadway on Columbia Pike. That man sustained life-threatening injuries, and a bystander had his foot crushed while the driver sped off.
Local police were able to track down and arrest the at-fault driver the following morning. She now faces charges of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, hit and run, and driving with a suspended license. Again, fear of jail time and lack of insurance could tempt a person to run. Choosing that option can never be accepted, however. My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I see every day the struggle hit-and-run victims endure to pay medical bills, return to work and get their lives back to normal. Going through that struggle with no one to hold accountable only adds to their hardship.