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Hit and Run

Hit and run is defined as “the act of causing (or contributing to) a traffic accident (such as colliding with a person or a fixture), and failing to stop and identify oneself afterwards”.
 

The content available on this website is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For free legal or emotional advice and support pertaining to your specific situation, please contact Victim Support Malta (21228333)

Facts and information: hit and run

The law provides that “it shall not be lawful for any person to use or to cause or permit any other person to use a motor vehicle on a road unless there is in force in relation to the user of the vehicle by that person or that other person, as the case may be, such a policy of insurance in respect of third-party risks as complies with the requirements of this Ordinance”.

However in the case that the driver who caused the accident was uninsured at the time of the incident, the Malta insurer’s Bureau (MIB) covers both the damage for physical injury, including death as well for damage to property.

If the driver was uninsured due to the fact that there was a breach of a policy condition, the insurer who issued this policy must still handle the relative third party claims. If the driver was uninsured due to the fact that such driver did not buy insurance cover, then it is the Bureau will provide the remedy to the victim. In both situations both the insurer and the Bureau may recover such damages from the person who caused such accident. 

If the driver who caused the accident also performed a hit and run, then the Bureau will cover 80% of the damages which would have been payable to the victim, in case of injury or death. No compensation will be given in relation to damage to property.
 
 

If a person is caught driving without insurance then the punishment is as follows:
(a)    in the case of a first offence, to a fine (multa) of not less than two thousand and three hundred and twenty- nine euro and thirty-seven cents (€2,329.37) but not exceeding four thousand and six hundred and fifty-eight euro and seventy-five cents (€4,658.75) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.
(b)   in the case of a second offence, to a fine (multa) of not less than four thousand and six hundred and fifty-eight euro and seventy-five cents (€4,658.75) but not exceeding five thousand and eight hundred and twenty-three euro and forty-three cents (€5,823.43) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment;”
 
(c)    in the case of a third or subsequent offence, to a fine (multa) of not less than five thousand and eighthundred and twenty-three euro and forty-three cents(€5,823.43) but not exceeding six thousand and nine hundred and eighty-eight euro and twelve cents (€6,988.12) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both such fine and imprisonment, and
 

a.       where the offence consists in the use of a motor vehicle on a road by a person who is the owner of the motor vehicle or an employee of, or a member of the family of and living with, the owner of the motor vehicle, when there is not in force a policy of insurance in respect of such vehicle as complies with the requirements of this Ordinance, the court shall, in addition to the punishments laid down in this sub-paragraph, order the forfeiture of the motor vehicle;
b.      where the offence, as aforesaid, is committed by any other person, the court shall, in addition to the punishments laid down in this subparagraph, impose a further fine (multa) equivalent to the value of the motor vehicle.

 
(d)    Notwithstanding any enactment prescribing a time within which proceedings may be brought before any court, proceedings for an offence under this article may be brought –
a.       within a period of six months from the date of the commission of the alleged offence; or
b.      within a period which exceeds neither three months from the date on which it came to the knowledge of the prosecution that the offence had been committed nor one year from the date of the offence, whichever period is the longer.
 

The law continues to explain that when there is an accident , without any personal injury or damage to public property, the persons in the accident have to remove anything to ensure that there is a free traffic flow.  They must then exchange information including the circumstances of the incident on appropriate forms as supplied by the insurance company, which must be given to the insurers by no later than 2 working days from the incident. This is more commonly known as the forms for bumper to bumper accidents.

If the accident does not fit the description of the second schedule, without any personal injury or damage to public property, they must exchange information including the circumstances of the incident on appropriate forms as supplied by the insurance company, which must be given to the insurers by no later than 2 working days from the incident. After that they must remove anything which may obstruct the free course of traffic.

If the parties do not agree on the circumstances then a local warden should be called in and will give the sufficient information to the warden. In all circumstances where there is any personal injury or damage to public property, then the warden shall be called in immediately and/or the Police, and the parties give the relevant information as required.
 

If a driver has been found guilty of driving negligently, recklessly or dangerously and inadvertently kills another person whilst involved in an accident, whether a hit or run or not shall also be liable for involuntary homicide.

The Criminal code provides that “Whosoever, through imprudence, carelessness, unskilfulness in his art or profession, or non-observance of regulations, causes the death of any person, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four years or to a fine (multa) not exceeding eleven thousand and six hundred and forty-six euro and eighty-seven cents (11,646.87). (2) Where the offender has caused the death of more than one person or where in addition to causing the death of a person the offender has also caused bodily harm to another person or other persons the punishment shall be that of imprisonment of a term from five to ten years”.
 
 

If you have been injured because of a violent crime which falls within the parameters of an act constituting a crime under the Criminal Code, namely wilful homicide, grievous bodily harm with arms proper and other cases of grievous bodily harm, you can apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. It does not matter whether the offender has been caught, but there are other rules which will determine whether or not you receive compensation. The law provides that such compensation will be withheld or reduced if:

(a) the applicant failed to take, without delay, all reasonable steps to inform the police, or other body or person considered by the Claims Officer to be appropriate for the purpose, of the circumstances giving rise to the crime; or
(b) the applicant failed to co-operate with the police or other authority in attempting to bring the assailant to justice; or
(c) the applicant has failed to give all reasonable assistance to the Claims Officer or other body or person in connection with the application; or
(d) the conduct of the applicant before, during or after the incident giving rise to the application makes it inappropriate that a full award or any award at all be made; or
(e) the applicant’s character as shown by his criminal convictions or by evidence available to the Claims Officer makes it inappropriate that a full award or any award at all be made; or
(f) the victim was jointly or partially responsible for the criminal injury sustained; or
(g) the conduct of the victim, his character or his way of life, makes it appropriate to do so.
 
The law also provides for situations where no compensation is given and this is where:
(a) the criminal injury was sustained before 1st January 2006;
(b) the Claims Officer is of the opinion that the offender is not indigent or unless proof has been produced that legal action to claim compensation has proved to be fruitless;
(c) the applicant has not, in the opinion of the Claims Officer, provided all reasonable assistance and information required for the purposes of these regulations;
(d) the applicant was responsible for the criminal injury sustained because of provocation or any other action of his own;
(e) the Claims Officer is satisfied that the conduct of the victim, his character or his way of life, make it inappropriate that he should be granted an award.
More information, explanations and assistance can be obtained from the Justice Unit situated at 30, Old Treasury Street, Valletta, during normal office hours, where you will find competent officials ready to answer your queries and assist you throughout.

The law itself thought of setting up the role of an 'Assisting Officer' precisely to assist in the filling up and receipt of applications and to assist in their evaluation. All applications are to be submitted to the Assisting Officer to be forwarded to the Claims Officer who shall determine awards and payments of compensation. Applications are to be submitted within a reasonable period of time and in any case not later than one year from when the violent intentional crime was committed. All applications must be accompanied by a police report.

The Claims Officer may, at his discretion, request any other additional evidence with the purpose, among other things, to ensure that compensation has not been awarded or will not be awarded from any other source including, if need be, an affidavit by the applicant and may call the applicant to be medically examined or re-examined. Persons entitled to compensation are citizens of Malta and citizens of one of the Member States of the European Union and persons who are habitual residents in Malta.
Where the Criminal Court, by virtue of article 532A of the Criminal Code, has already established the compensation due to the victim(s) of the crime, the Claims Officer will not assess that claim but will proceed to pay compensation subject to the provisions of the Legal Notice.

Compensation will be by way of a lump sum payment, rather than a periodical pension, but it will be open to the Claims Officer to make an interim award and to postpone making a final award in a case in which a final medical assessment of the injury is delayed. No compensation will be payable to an applicant who has not, in the opinion of the Claims Officer, given the Claims Officer all reasonable assistance in relation to any medical report that he may require, and otherwise. Finally, no payment to any claimant shall exceed the sum of 23,300 euros and such sum shall not be exceeded where there is more than one claimant by virtue of the same crime.
 
 

The law continues by stating that “where the offence consists in driving a motor vehicle or other vehicle in a reckless or dangerous manner, the court shall, in addition to the punishment under sub-article (1), disqualify the offender for holding or obtaining a driving licence, in the case of a first conviction for a period of not less than three months, and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction for a period of not less than one year”.
 

Apart from being found liable criminally, the driver may also be found liable civilly as well under tort. In fact the law provides that “Any person who makes use, within the proper limits, of a right competent to him, shall not be liable for any damage which may result therefrom”. The law continues that “Every person, however, shall be liable for the damage which occurs through his fault”. A person is deemed to be at fault when “in his own acts, he does not use the prudence, diligence, and attention of a bonus paterfamilias”. A bonus paterfamilias signifies the standard of care, which is that of a reasonable man.
 

Under Maltese Law, there is an obligation of a driver of a vehicle to stop in case of an accident. The Law provides that ' If in any case, owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road, an accident occurs involving personal injury to another person or damage to any vehicle, animal or other property, the driver of the motor vehicle must stop and, if required to do so by a police officer, a local warden or by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address, the name and address of the owner of the motor vehicle, the details of the insurer of the vehicle as well as its registration mark or number.'

Thus if a driver fails to abide by this procedure, then it is classified as a hit and run. The Courts have held that if one flees the scene after an accident, but then soon after goes to the police and confesses does not tantamount to a hit and run accident.
 

The Courts have also distinguished between negligent driving, reckless driving and dangerous driving.

Negligent driving is when a driver departs from the level of driving expected from a reasonable, prudent, competent and experienced driver. As a rule, non-observance of traffic rules as well as the Highway Code or anything that affect the quality of driving constitutes negligent driving.

Reckless driving is described as one who drives negligently. The level needed is gross negligence where one takes unnecessary risks where there is a probability where third parties may be harmed or where the driver is indifferent about taking such risk. Reckless has been defined by the court as “wilfully shutting one’s eye.”

Dangerous driving is where such driving was actually a danger to third parties or to their property. For one to conclude that there was no such danger, it must be proven taking into account all circumstances, including the time, location and the presence of traffic and pedestrians in the area.

Naturally in particular cases the driver may fall into more than one category and thus will depend from the circumstances of the case. The legislator has classified reckless driving and dangerous driving in the same category for punishment purposes. Reckless driving and dangerous driving incorporates negligent driving. The Court has also held that the difference between them is also a question of degree and depends on the level of the manner of driving.

If a driver has been driving negligently, recklessly or dangerously and has caused any form of bodily harm to the victim, then the driver may also be found guilty of bodily harm, grievous bodily harm or grievous bodily harm from which death ensues.
 

In certain situations, the law also provides for a compensation scheme for criminal injury  however not all crimes give rise to compensation for the victims.  Such criminal injuries must be sustained on or after 1st January, 2006. Eligibility is further discretionally limited by the considerations laid down by Article 8 (a) to (e) of said Legal Notice. Such considerations may justify the Claims Officer, who is the final legal authority to determine all claims for compensation for criminal injuries, in withholding or reducing an award.

Furthermore, there are a number of documents and certificates which in all cases have to be submitted together with the relative application. One should make a note of the following:

  • Any extra expenses that you have had as a result of the offence, for example medical expenses or the cost of repairing or replacing your property.
  • Any loss of earnings you have suffered.
  • Any income that you have received as a result of the offence (for example social and/or unemployment benefits, or any relative Court Order for compensation).
  • Always keep any relevant receipts, estimates or other documents.