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Get Legal with Ray Thomas: What you need to know about hit and run

Posted by on January 6th, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Gresham-Fairview Trail gap at Burnside

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Hit and runs are far too common in Oregon. Unfortunately, so is the feeling of helplessness about what to do about them. In the spirit that knowledge equals power, I’ve put together a primer on the laws surrounding hit and runs and what do to if you are ever involved in one.

Here’s the sad but true fact: If a vehicle operator* can escape a collision scene then the chances are they will get away without having to pay for the damage they caused and they can also avoid things like: arrest on an outstanding warrant; a DUI charge for driving/riding while impaired; a possible police search of the vehicle for drugs or contraband on board; a car with no insurance, or not having a drivers’ license.

If the perpetrator is ever caught (and they usually are), here’s what the law says about their crime.

Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 811.700 makes it a Class A misdemeanor not to stop and remain at the scene of any collision where any property is damaged in order to exchange registration information and the name and address of the driver and any vehicle occupants, and upon request to show the driver license. Further, ORS 806.011 requires that proof of insurance coverage be carried in every motor vehicle.

We know this is a maddening crime and it’s even worse if it happens to you; but if you just give up before starting, there’s is no chance the person will ever get caught and held accountable.

If someone is hurt then ORS 811.705 makes “Failure to Perform Duties of Driver to Injured Persons” into a Class B or C felony. Included in the legal requirement where someone is hurt is the obligation to give “reasonable assistance” including transport for medical treatment.

The duties at the scene of a collision even extend to witnesses. ORS 811.715 requires that witnesses to an injury collision furnish their name and address to occupants or drivers of involved vehicles and makes it a Class C violation (non-criminal) to fail to do so.

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What if it happens to you?

If you are the victim of hit and run call 911. If possible have witnesses give you all information about the fleeing party and retain their contact information. It is important that you go through the process because if you do not report the collision the police will not be able to find the fleeing suspect. And if you are injured it is important that you file a police report in order to make an insurance claim (yes, an insurance claim, your own car insurance may cover your injuries!).

About insurance

Oregon automobile insurance covers hit and run collisions where a person is hurt by a motor vehicle, even where the victim is on foot or a bicycle. Automobile insurers in Oregon are required to include in every policy what is called Uninsured Motorist Coverage which includes special Hit and Run coverage. However there are technical requirements for coverage so be mindful that one must follow certain basic rules:

  • First, the collision must be mostly the fault of the person who left the scene;
  • Second, a report of the collision must be made within 72 hours to law enforcement and the claim must be reported to the insurance company within 30 days;
  • Third, if there is a “vehicle” occupied or operated by the injured party it must be available for inspection by the insurance company.

Note that even if the hit and run suspect has caused the injury without actual contact with the injured person or their vehicle, this “phantom vehicle” claim can still be made so long as “the facts of the accident can be corroborated by competent evidence other than the testimony of the injured person”, ORS 742.504(g)(B). While this sounds like a tough requirement, if care is taken to gather evidence from the scene, gather witness information, and preserve any evidence showing the way the incident happened without an actual collision, then a successful claim may be made for all the damages including medical costs, wage loss, and pain and suffering.

Be persistent and follow through

If you or someone you know gets in a hit and run incident don’t give up without going through the steps necessary to report and follow through on each step. While the reason people take off from the scene of a collision is that a lot of times they get away with it, if you report it to the police and keep checking in with the investigating officer to learn about progress, at least you have done what you can. And make sure to check and see if there is existing insurance to cover damages.

We know this is a maddening crime and it’s even worse if it happens to you; but if you just give up before starting, there’s is no chance the person will ever get caught and held accountable.

*The ORS that refer to hit and runs, use the word “driver” as the default. I prefer the more mode-neutral term “vehicle operator” which makes it more clear that any type of vehicle operator using the public right of way — whether riding a motorcycle or a bicycles — can be found guilty of leaving the scene of a collision.

Browse our Get Legal with Ray Thomas story archives to learn more about Oregon bike law.

Disclaimer: This article is part of a paid promotional partnership between BikePortland.org and Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

20 Comments
  • Avatar
    broseph January 6, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    I was hit and run about a year and a half ago. everything seemed fine property and injury wise. I got the license and called 911. A cop came and visited my house, noted some scrapes on the pedal and shifter and asked me, “do you want me to go arrest them right now?” I said no, but I wanted them to know that they can’t get away with that kind of thing so the cop went to the drivers house and gave them a civil compromise. I still have the paperwork and stuff. If anything comes up related to the hit and run in the near future, do I have any power here? like if the bike shop finds something broken that could be related to the accident?

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      Charley Gee January 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      You have two years to pursue a personal injury or property damage claim against the driver through their insurance.

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        Charley Gee January 6, 2015 at 1:57 pm

        Two years from the day you were hit, not from now.

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    Nathan January 6, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Hello,

    Is it considered a hit and run if no actual contact is made?

    For example I was riding down Skidmore near Mississippi one morning when a car pulled out on me. I ended up slamming on my brakes and going over my handle bar. The driver ended up stopping (directly in my path if I had continued on). He drove of after seeing that I stood up, but without talking to me or getting out of his car. There was no injury or damage so I didn’t follow up but I was wondering what the law says in a situation were IMO the driver was at fault for my fall but he never actually made contact with me.

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      John Lascurettes January 6, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Did you not read the article fully? Yes, it can still be a hit and run if they caused the accident.

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      Charley Gee January 6, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Yes, it is considered hit and run even if there is no contact made. The only event triggering a duty to stop under ORS 811.700 and ORS 811.705 is that an “accident” occurred.

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    ac January 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Several years ago, I called the portland police non-emergency line after I discovered the guy who hit me gave me fraudulent info. Portland police told me tough luck and refused to use the license plate info to pursue further action. I was told, since the driver stopped and gave me info, no crime was committed. How is that not “hit and run”?

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      Charley Gee January 6, 2015 at 2:06 pm

      It depends on what kind of information was fraudulent. If, for instance, the person gave you their correct name and contact information, but their insurance was expired, then that only rises to the level of a violation (like a speeding ticket) for the offense of driving without insurance. They technically fulfilled the letter of the hit and run law.

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    invisiblebikes January 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    It’s great to know that we can possibly claim it on our own car insurance, there is one big drawback… our rates go up or we get dropped and flagged!

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      Charley Gee January 6, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Your rates shouldn’t go up for making a hit and run or uninsured vehicle claim because rates are based on risk of the insured causing a collision, not of having a collision thrust upon them. If your rates did go up then I would suggest shopping for new insurance.

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    Spiffy January 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    “The ORS that refer to hit and runs, use the word “driver” as the default.”

    does this mean that you can’t be guilty of a hit-and-run if you’re not driving? that’s what it would seems due to the language…

    language matters…

    if you can be guilty when using any vehicle, where is that defined?

    I’d really like some clarification on all these laws that specify “driver” yet people try to apply them to bicycles…

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      Charley Gee January 6, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      An operator of a bicycle is a driver of a bicycle and, if operating on the “highway” which includes all public streets, then they have the same responsibilities as a motor vehicle operator under ORS 814.400.

      Driver isn’t defined in the statutes, but operation is under ORS 801.370 and includes any operation, towing, pushing, movement or otherwise propelling.

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        Spiffy January 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

        if it’s not defined I would think we would use the most common definition, which does not include cyclists…

        I’d like to know how the term driver is legally applied to cyclists…

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        Spiffy January 8, 2015 at 3:24 pm

        and yes, I’m away that a cyclist is an operator of a vehicle, but I would never call them a driver…

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          Charley Gee January 8, 2015 at 3:53 pm

          Since “drive” or “driver” it isn’t defined in the statutes, a court would go to the common use definition, which seems to be along the lines that “driver” would be defined as one who drives, and “to drive” looks to be defined by various sources as one who causes and guides the movement of a vehicle.

          If the common sense definition of “to drive” found by a court included the term “motor vehicle” for whatever reason it would be applied to bicycle operators under the applicability statute of ORS 814.400.

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    Spiffy January 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    “even if the hit and run suspect has caused the injury without actual contact”

    I was going to say “not possible” until Nathan gave an example…

    so I’ll say: not possible with me…

    I don’t create my own at-fault crash by avoiding one that’s the fault of another person… I’d sooner slam into the side of their vehicle or go over the hood than ditch my bike to avoid hitting them and let them drive away without a scratch…

    I stopped avoiding other people’s stupidity about 15 years ago while driving in the San Francisco bay area… I can’t in good conscience let a bad driver continue blissfully ignorant down the road where they might hurt somebody that doesn’t heal as easily…

    it’s easy in a car to hold your ground and let their car bounce off of yours, but on a bike I’m usually hitting/kicking the vehicle to get their attention so they’ll behave…

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    gutterbunnybikes January 6, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Calling 911 is the second thing you should do.

    Having been involved in a hit run the very first thing you should do when ever you are involved in a collision (in car or bike) is get the plate numbers – if you are able to.

    In my case the person side swiped me (both in cars),she stopped, got out and then under the pretense of pulling over to get out of the lanes we were blocking – took off.

    Because she got out I was fairly relaxed about getting the info. But live and learn. I’m just glad I was alright.

    Aside from the danger – hit and runs are a pain the butt when it come time to make your insurance claims as well. The insurance companies need to be convinced that you didn’t just hit something and “make up” the story. Even with a police report.

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    ac January 7, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Charley Gee
    It depends on what kind of information was fraudulent. If, for instance, the person gave you their correct name and contact information, but their insurance was expired, then that only rises to the level of a violation (like a speeding ticket) for the offense of driving without insurance. They technically fulfilled the letter of the hit and run law.
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    false name & address, no insurance
    i just wrote down what he told me; I should have insisted on seeing his docs myself
    I totally learned a lesson on trusting people with that interaction — trust but verify…but the portland police interaction was even more frustrating

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      Tim January 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      Most of us have cameras with us these days. If possible photo the car, driver, scene, license, and insurance documentation. I settled an insurance claim by e-mailing photos of the scene.

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      Spiffy January 8, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      sounds like hit-and-run to me…

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