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Knoxville Hit & Run Injury Lawyers

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Were you injured by a hit-and-run driver in Knox County or East Tennessee?

When someone flees the scene after a serious auto wreck, it's not only a crime but can also leave you feeling stranded and financially strapped. Our award-winning law firm has represented Tennessee families for over 40 years.

Getting into a car accident in Knoxville, TN is stressful enough. But when the at-fault driver drives off into the sunset, leaving the crash scene without stopping to check if you're okay, such a display of gross negligence, cowardice and lack of basic compassion can rightfully leave you feeling confused and angry.


Proving another driver is at fault for an auto accident is key to collecting compensation for injuries, wage loss and property damage

Failing to stop at the scene of an accident you're involved in (known as a "hit and run") is a crime in the state of Tennessee, punishable by steep fines and even jail time. Nevertheless, that doesn't stop people from doing so anyway.

A hit-and-run crash happens somewhere in the U.S. every 43 seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, totaling hundreds of thousands of collisions and thousands of fatalities each year. (source)

Pedestrians and bicyclists are some of the most common victims of hit-and-run collisions since at-fault drivers know they won't be pursued by the victim and therefore feel more emboldened to attempt an escape and avoid facing reality.

From 2010 to 2020, 86 pedestrians and 388 bicyclists were involved in reported Tennessee traffic crashes—some of which were hit and runs.

Whether you were hit as a pedestrian, cyclist or driver, it's important to understand that you have rights when injured by a hit-and-run driver. To protect your rights and identify the driver who fled, it's vital you act swiftly by seeking experienced legal counsel.

At Gilreath & Associates, our attorneys have successfully secured substantial sums in settlements and litigation for car accident victims throughout Knoxville and East Tennessee for over 40 years. We serve people across the state and have offices in Nashville and Memphis, but our Knoxville office is our largest and longest-serving office.


If a hit-and-run driver seriously injured you or a loved one, find out how to get compensation for your loss.

Contact our Knoxville accident lawyers to discuss your legal options and seek justice in your case.

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Tennessee Hit and Run Laws

Accident Reporting Requirements

All drivers in Tennessee who are involved in an auto accident are required by law to stop immediately at the crash scene once it is safe to do so. However, whether or not you have to report the accident to local authorities depends on the nature and severity of the incident.

In Tennessee, you are legally required to report car accidents that result in personal injury, death or property damage exceeding $400.

In other words, you aren't required to report a minor crash that results in little to no property damage and no injuries.

That said, it's almost always in your best interests to call local police and report the incident following an auto accident—no matter how minor it seems. Reporting the accident provides a documented record of the damages and helps preserve important evidence, which can become vital to successfully pursuing a claim through insurance or (if necessary) personal injury court.


Legal Obligations Following an Accident

In addition to pulling over and reporting the accident, Tennessee law (§ 55-10-103) requires anyone who is involved in a car accident on public or private roads to do 2 things following a crash:

  1. Provide information. Any driver who is involved in an accident that causes injury, death or property damage must give their name, address and vehicle registration number to the other party and/or the responding police officer. If requested, they must also present their driver's license number.
  2. Render aid. You also must render "reasonable assistance" to anyone injured in an accident you're involved in, including "the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying, of the person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if carrying is requested by the injured person."

Hit and Run Penalties

Tennessee's hit and run laws, as well as the resulting punishments for breaking the law, can be found in Title 55, Chapter 10 of the motor vehicle code. The possible penalties vary depending on the nature of the incident, such as whether the accident caused injury or death or just property damage.

The following laws apply to "accidents occurring upon highways and the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex, or any other premises that are generally frequented by the public at large."

Statute Law Penalty
§ 55-10-101 Accidents involving death or personal injury. The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible, but shall then return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of § 55-10-103. The stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Class A misdemeanor

(Class E felony if the person knew or should reasonably have known that death resulted from the accident.)
§ 55-10-102 Accidents involving damage to vehicle. The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible, but shall return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until that person has fulfilled the requirements of § 55-10-103. The stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Class C misdemeanor

Hitting a Parked or Unattended Car

Tennessee law clearly lays out the legal duties of drivers who hit an unattended vehicle, such as in a parking lot or neighborhood street. According to § 55-10-104:

The driver of any vehicle that collides with any unattended vehicle shall immediately stop and shall then and there either locate and notify the operator or owner of that vehicle of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle, or shall leave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle doing the striking and a statement of the circumstances thereof.

In other words, in Tennessee, motorists who hit an unattended vehicle are required to attempt to locate the owner first. If the owner cannot be found, they must leave a note with their name, address and a brief statement of what happened in a "conspicuous place" (such as on the windshield or door handle).

Failing to follow these steps is considered a hit-and-run and punishable under the law.

Why Do People Hit and Run?

Despite the grave and serious punishments resulting from breaking Tennessee's hit and run laws, statistics show that many people make the wrong choice to flee the accident scene anyway.

There are many different reasons why people might hit and run. While we can't possibly cover all of the potential motives behind fleeing the accident scene, here are the most common:

  • Driving without insurance. Despite strict laws that punish people for driving uninsured, Tennessee has one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists in the country. By some estimates, as many as 1 in 5 drivers in the state don't have insurance. When uninsured drivers cause an accident, they are more prone to flee the scene in order to avoid the penalties of driving without insurance.
  • Driving without a license. Driving without a valid license is a Class C misdemeanor in Tennessee, and yet it's all too common in Knoxville and across the state. Similar to uninsured drivers, unlicensed drivers tend to be more likely to hit and run. To make matters worse, unlicensed drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal traffic accident than licensed drivers.
  • Prior record. Drivers who have an outstanding warrant, other traffic violations, a past criminal history or other legal problems might hit and run because they fear being arrested when police are called to the scene. For example, a driver who has an expired or revoked license due to a prior drug charge might flee a crash.
  • Drunk/impaired driving. Drunk driving is a major problem in Tennessee, especially the Knoxville area. From 2010 to 2020, Knox County alone reported 4,663 known alcohol-related traffic crashes—the third highest in the state. To avoid getting charged with a DUI, some intoxicated drivers flee the scene, especially if they have previous DUI convictions and risk losing their license.
  • Illegal substances in the vehicle. If a person causes a crash while transporting something that is against the law—such as controlled substances (drugs) or illegal contraband (like guns)—they are more likely to flee in order to avoid having their cargo seen and apprehended by law enforcement.
  • Immigration concerns. In Tennessee, immigrants can obtain a state driver's license by following a designated process. However, documented or not, some immigrants fear that car accident encounters could cause them to be deported, which is why they may risk fleeing the scene. Undocumented persons aren't able to get a driver's license or insurance in Tennessee.

The emotion underpinning all of these hit-and-run motives (and many other reasons) is fear. Following an auto accident, people are often afraid of facing the consequences of their actions. Caught up in the moment and overcome by panic and uncertainty, the driver may make a split-second decision to keep driving or drive away—a decision that can haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Experiencing fear after a crash is natural, but that's no justification for breaking the law by leaving the accident scene and potentially leaving an injured person stranded.
Car Accidents: Verdicts & Settlements

When choosing a Tennessee personal injury law firm, an attorney's experience and proven results can make a big difference in your case outcome. Our attorneys represented countless individuals injured in catastrophic automobile crashes. Here are just a few examples of compensation recovered for our clients.


Compensation for Hit and Run Car Accidents

In certain no-fault states, people who are hurt in an auto accident can obtain compensation from their own auto insurance company first, then pursue any remaining damages from the other party (or the other party's insurance company). In these states, insurance helps hit and run victims recover compensation even if the other driver is never found.

However, Tennessee is not one of these states.

Tennessee is an "at-fault" state, meaning that in order to recover damages following a car accident, you need to pursue compensation from the other driver or their insurance company.

Unfortunately, victims of a hit-and-run often aren't able to identify the at-fault driver—or they might have to wait weeks or months for police to finish their investigation. Some of the tactics authorities, investigators and attorneys can employ to help identify a hit-and-run driver include:

  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Cameras (from nearby traffic lights, vehicle dash cams, businesses or homes, etc.)
  • Crash scene evidence (skid marks, vehicle damage, paint marks, etc.)

While these investigation tactics may prove helpful, in many cases the at-fault driver is never identified. In such cases, a hit-and-run victim may only be able to turn to their own auto insurance company for financial compensation if they have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. This type of coverage is not required by Tennessee's car insurance laws but highly recommended since it applies to hit and run accidents, too.

What to Do After a Hit and Run (8 Steps)

If you are the victims of a hit-and-run, follow these steps to ensure that your health and legal rights are protected:

  1. Call 911. Contact local law enforcement and let the dispatcher know if you (or anyone else) were hurt so they can send an ambulance.
  2. Recall details. If you remember any identifying traits about the driver who hit you or their vehicle, try to write down or record these details before you forget. Try to remember important details such as their license plate number and/or state, vehicle make and model, the color of the vehicle, which direction they drove away, characteristics of the driver, etc.)
  3. Locate witnesses. If you're not seriously hurt and can do so safely, ask if anyone nearby witnessed the accident. If so, see if they can fill in any details you missed about the hit-and-run driver and/or their vehicle.
  4. Take pictures. Even if the other driver fled, it's important to snap photos or record video of the damage done to your vehicle, as well as your injuries and the environment surrounding the crash. You never know what small piece of evidence might help identify the at-fault driver and bolster your claim, so be liberal in taking pictures.
  5. File a report. Once the police arrive, answer their questions and provide them with any details you can remember about the driver and vehicle. They will use this information, as well as accounts from eyewitnesses and other evidence, to help identify the driver. They will also file an accident report, which may be important for your claim.
  6. Notify your insurer. Whether or not the other driver has been identified, it's important to notify your auto insurance company that you were in an accident as soon as possible. Most insurance policies require you to notify the insurer in a timely manner, or else your claim for compensation may be denied. You don't need to give a recorded statement until later (after you've seen a doctor and talked with your lawyer), but it's important to start the process by putting your insurer on notice.
  7. Seek medical attention. Even if your injuries didn't appear to be serious immediately following the crash and you didn't go to the emergency room, it's still vital that you get a full medical checkup from your doctor as soon as possible. Many car accident injuries aren't visible or noticeable right away. Your doctor should be able to spot any delayed and unseen medical conditions that resulted from the accident and begin treatment immediately.
  8. Consult with an attorney. Lastly, you should consider meeting with an experienced hit and run injury lawyer near you if your injuries were severe and/or property damage extensive. Recovering from a serious car accident is tough, especially when the at-fault driver is nowhere to be found. The right attorney can help explore your legal options and guide you to the best possible financial outcome.

When to Hire a Knoxville Hit and Run Accident Attorney (and Why)

If you or a loved one were seriously injured by a driver who fled, you may be wondering how your medical bills, property damage and other expenses will be covered. At Gilreath & Associates, our experienced Tennessee car accident lawyers are on your side from the first day to the last. We can check in on the law enforcement report, conduct our own investigation if necessary, and skillfully negotiate with insurers to secure the best possible financial outcome for you.

Even if the at-fault driver was identified and located, and charged with a hit and run criminal offense, you may still need to pursue civil litigation by filing a personal injury lawsuit for your damages. In such cases, let Gilreath & Associates represent your case.

Ready to discuss your case?
Contact our Knoxville car accident attorneys today for your free consultation.

Frequently Asked Personal Injury Questions

  • What should I do if I have a car accident in Tennessee or elsewhere?
  • What not to do after a car accident in Tennessee?
  • What should I do after I have left the scene of the car accident?
  • What if the other driver is at fault and has no insurance?
  • Will my policy pay for a rental car if my car is damaged?
  • If my car is totaled, will insurance pay off my car note?
  • What is the meaning of "subrogation" when applied to my automobile insurance?

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