Jennifer Karen Cook, a 23-year-old Chamblee woman has been indicted on felony charges she injured an on-duty Smyrna police motorcycle officer in a 2012 traffic accident. The wreck occurred on South Cobb Drive on May 8, 2012, when Cook made a left turn into Cpl. Eugene Crawford’s motorcycle and failed to stop. Cook is being charged by the Cobb County ‘s DA’s office with serious injury by vehicle and hit and run, both felonies, and reckless driving, a misdemeanor. If convicted of all charges, she could be sentenced to up to 21 years in prison and fined $1,000.
Hit and runs, like this, carry some of the toughest penalties. Georgia law says that it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident before driver information is exchanged, injuries are attended to, and/or police or emergency professionals arrive on the scene. Drivers who fail to do so are committing a “hit and run”- which, depending on the circumstances, can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor.
The Code Section for where Hit and Runs are discusses is in O.C.G.A § 40-6-270 which states in part: (a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of any person or in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident or shall stop as close thereto as possible and forthwith return to the scene of the accident and shall: (1) Give his name and address…(2)… exhibit his operator´s license to the person struck…; and (3) Render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the transporting, or the making of arrangements for the transporting, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment… The driver shall in every event remain at the scene of the accident until fulfilling the requirements of this subsection…(b) If such accident is the proximate cause of death or a serious injury, any person knowingly failing to stop and comply with the requirements of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.
On a criminal level, hit and runs carry stringent sentences. The primary reason is because the State wants to promote a public policy goal that if a driver hits another person, that the offending driver stop and help. The State is trying to deter bad behavior (i.e. fleeing the scene) when someone needs help. Therefore and similarly, on the civil side of the law, when I help a client who has been injured in a hit and run, I seek the maximum insurance limits available because of the offending and egregiousness behavior of the driver. If you have been injured in a hit and run, and you don’t know who the offending driver was, don’t despair. You still may have a very good case. If you have Uninsured Motorist Coverage (“UM/UIM”), you can actually file a claim against your own insurance company and collect from your own insurance company.
If you have any questions on hit and runs, UM insurance, UIM insurance or on what your legal rights are, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.