What To Do After A Hit-and-Run Car Accident
An accident in which a driver fails to stop at the scene or report the crash to law enforcement after colliding with another vehicle, pedestrian or object is a hit-and-run accident. Each state has its own laws defining what a motorist must do after a crash but stopping at the scene appears to be a universal requirement regardless of where the accident occurs.
You might think that most motorists know to stop, get medical attention for themselves or anyone else injured in the crash, and exchange license and insurance information with the other motorists. However, according to an analysis by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety of national crash data, a hit-and-run accident happens every 43 seconds.
The best way to handle the anxiety and uncertainty of a hit-and-run accident is to be prepared by knowing the steps to take to get help and preserve your rights to recover compensation. The following steps taken at the scene of an accident and after you get home not only help police to identify and locate the missing driver, but they may facilitate your ability to recover for the losses you incurred in the crash.
Stop and remain at the scene
Stop your car, turn off the engine and check yourself and other occupants of your car for injuries before attempting to exit the vehicle. Depending on the extent of your injuries, it may be safer to stay put until emergency medical personnel arrive to avoid worsening your condition by moving around. Call 911 to report the accident and whether anyone has been injured.
Resist the temptation to chase after the fleeing vehicle. It will only increase the risk of another accident and could cause police to charge you with leaving the scene.
Make a note of whatever you recall about the other vehicle
Write down or use your phone to record as much information as you recall about the vehicle that fled from the scene, including the following:
- Make, model, and color of the vehicle.
- As many details as possible about the license plate, include any letters or numbers, the state that issued it, or its color.
- What you recall about the physical appearance of the driver.
- Distinguishing marks, damage, and stickers or decals on the vehicle.
- A description of passengers, if any.
Give the information about the other vehicle and its driver to the police either during the 911 call or as soon as officers arrive at the scene.
Document the accident scene
Use the camera of your cellphone to take pictures of the accident scene from a variety of angles and distances. Include items that may help to prove that the other vehicle hit you, such as parts of the other vehicle left at the scene or paint that may have transferred to other vehicles or objects that were hit.
Take photographs of lane markings, traffic control devices, and traffic signs. Do not overlook taking photographs of buildings and homes near the accident location that may have surveillance cameras that recorded video of the accident.
Talk to any people who may have witnessed the accident to determine if they have information about the other vehicle or how the accident occurred. Get their name and contact information to provide to the police.
Get medical treatment
Any injuries should be evaluated by a physician as soon after the accident as possible. Let emergency medical personnel at the scene evaluate you and determine whether you should be taken by ambulance to a hospital. Even if paramedics do not recommend that you go to the hospital, arrange to be evaluated by your doctor to determine the extent of your injuries.
Report the accident to your insurance company
Damages from a hit-and-run accident may be covered by your auto insurance policy in case the other motorist cannot be found by the police. If you opted to add collision coverage to your auto policy, it would cover the damage to your car. The uninsured coverage endorsement to your policy may provide compensation for your personal injuries.
To protect your right to file a claim for compensation through your own auto insurance policy, you must report the accident to your insurance company right away. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to obtain advice and guidance about how to report the accident.
Even though you will be dealing with your own insurance company following a hit-and-run accident, it is still a claim as far as the company is concerned. Working through an attorney rather than handling the claim on your own avoids the possibility that you may say or do something that the insurance company can use to avoid paying the compensation you deserve to receive.
Steve Howards has been writing legal-centric articles for several years now. He started working with the personal injury attorney law firm Herrig & Vogt in 2019 as the Content Marketing Manager, which has allowed him to expand on his writing in personal injury, family law, and much more. Steve strives to offer the public advice on various laws covering a variety of practices.