Erin's Law and West Virginia Hit-And-Run Cases

Hit-and-run accidents are doubly tragic: they ruin and take lives without giving victims and their families the closure of bringing the responsible party to justice. It’s a sad reality that many careless, negligent, and reckless drivers speed away from accidents they know they caused – even accidents that leave victims seriously injured or dead. This is negligence in the eyes of the law, and it’s also a criminal act that can result in jail time if police catch the perpetrator. Learn more about hit-and-run laws in West Virginia, including one law instated after the death of a 21-year-old West Virginia University student. If you or somebody you love was injured in a hit-and-run accident, reach out to a Charleston, WV car accident attorney as soon as possible to learn about your available legal options.

What Is Erin’s Law?

In 2005, 21-year-old Erin Keener stepped outside of Vincent’s Bar sometime between midnight and 12:20 a.m. early Sunday morning. A vehicle struck her in the alley-like entrance to a parking lot situated behind the bar. City maps mark this entrance as, “Guffey Street Extension.” She fell – or the car dragged her – to the bottom of the steep drive, where her friends soon found her. She had multiple serious injuries and died three days later at the Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. This tragic hit-and-run case remains unsolved.

After Erin’s death, her parents worked hard to get the state to pass a new law – House Bill 2099. Now known as West Virginia Code Chapter 17C-4-1, or more simply “Erin’s Law,” the law states that any driver involved in an accident that results in injury or death must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene or as close as possible, return to the scene, and remain there until authorities give them leave. The only time a driver may leave the scene is to render help to an injured person. Anyone in violation of Erin’s law commits a felony, punishable by up to $5,000 in fines or imprisonment for one to five years.

Hit-And-Run Accident Laws

After a hit-and-run accident in West Virginia, victims and their family members may feel at a loss. The at-fault party took off without leaving any information or rendering aid that may have been life-saving. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these accidents remain unsolved. Drivers typically don’t come forward to confess, and law enforcement can only do so much with a lack of incriminating evidence. However, in some cases, an investigation does reveal the identity of the driver. Surveillance footage, eyewitness interviews, and information from the scene of the accident can lead to a successful hit-and-run conviction.

If law enforcement does convict the driver, victims can pursue compensation through the driver’s insurance company for injuries. Victims can also file personal injury or wrongful death claims against the driver. Civil claims are allowable at the same time as ongoing criminal cases in West Virginia. The courts will often award punitive damages in addition to other damages in hit-and-run cases in order to punish the offender for his/her unlawful actions.

If the hit-and-run driver remains unknown, it may be possible to recover damages through uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage. This coverage will work as if the driver did remain on the scene but did not carry adequate insurance to cover damages. An insurance claim can lead to recovery for medical bills and property damage. Talk to an attorney for more information about these types of cases in West Virginia.