Any car accident can leave you shaken and overwhelmed, but a hit-and-run collision can leave you feeling helpless. After all, without knowing the other driver’s information, you can’t hold them accountable. Yet, you have legal options in situations like these, and knowing your steps can prove invaluable in your fight for compensation. A knowledgeable car accident attorney will know what steps you should take for your unique situation following a hit-and-run accident.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Collision
After a hit-and-run accident:
- Check on the injured parties (including yourself)
- Call the police
- Take photos of the accident scene and your damaged vehicle
Here are some considerations in the immediate aftermath of a hit-and-run accident:
Make Sure You and Others Are Safe
Safety is the most important thing after any type of car accident. You should first check yourself for any injuries. If you are well enough to move, you should check on the other occupants in your car or in other vehicles involved in the crash.
Be careful here. You may feel fine at first, but you may still have injuries. Further, avoid getting too close to oncoming traffic, as you don’t want to injure yourself again. If possible, try pulling over to the roadside and waiting for first responders.
Call 911 for Help
Victims frequently delay calling the police after a hit-and-run accident. This is a big mistake.
Seconds count in hit-and-run accidents. In the time you delay calling:
- Victims’ conditions could get worse without medical attention.
- Other cars could strike you or your vehicle, increasing the collision’s severity.
- The negligent driver could get even farther away from the accident scene, making them difficult to find.
Many states have laws requiring motorists to notify law enforcement at the accident scene. For instance, Georgia law notes that you must call the police in a crash if anyone’s hurt or passes away. Failing to call the police could make you non-compliant with the law.
Once the police report is complete, ask for a copy of it. If the report is not finished at the scene, the officer may still provide a crash report number for future reference. You should also request the responding officer’s name and badge number. If you hire an injury lawyer later, they could use the responding officer’s testimony to bolster your claim.
Gather Information About the Other Driver and Vehicle
Hit-and-run accidents happen in a blink of an eye. Most victims never see them coming, and with hit-and-run deaths rising, many don’t live to even see the driver speeding off. If you are fortunate to survive the initial impact, do your best to collect information about the other driver.
Ideally, you make a note of anything you remember about the other driver and their vehicle. For instance, if the car had any decals or other unique features, law enforcement can consider that information when finding the at-fault motorist.
Also, ask witnesses at the scene about what they saw and if they would be willing to give a statement to the police. If so, ask them for their contact information. Many witnesses take photos and videos of out-of-the-ordinary occurrences like hit-and-run crashes, so there is a chance someone recorded it.
Other information you should collect about the at-fault driver includes:
- Their vehicle’s color
- The car’s make and model
- The style of the car (if no make or model)
- The vehicle’s license plate number
- A description of the driver
- Notable details of the car (ex: bumper stickers, dents, or paint inconsistencies)
Never Chase a Fleeing Driver
You should never follow a driver who is fleeing the scene. This is dangerous for a variety of reasons. For instance, if you haven’t evaluated yourself for injuries, you could risk your health by abruptly pursuing the other driver. You also run the risk of getting into another accident or aggravating the fleeing driver. Without knowing the driver’s demeanor or state of mind, you could put yourself in further danger.
In addition, you could compromise your position with the police and your insurance company. If you leave the scene of the crash, police might question who is truly at fault. Lastly, you miss the opportunity to speak with eyewitnesses at the scene.
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you feel that your injuries are minor (or you don’t feel hurt initially), you should seek medical attention. It’s best to do this right away. If offered an ambulance ride to the hospital, take it. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.
If you don’t appear to be injured, remain vigilant in the days ahead. Many serious injuries like soft-tissue injuries may not show up until hours, days, or weeks later. Further, some injuries that are not immediately apparent get worse over time. It could be days or weeks before you notice the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, for instance.
Medical care provides documented proof of your car accident injuries and reveals the extent of the physical harm you’ve suffered. Recovering compensation through an insurance claim or lawsuit will rely heavily on demonstrating your condition’s severity. You will need your medical bills, medical records, and any doctor’s reports to support your claim.
Call Your Car Insurance Company
Whether or not you can file an insurance claim for your hit-and-run accident depends on several factors, including your auto insurance coverage. However, all auto insurers require policyholders to notify them of accidents involving their vehicles. You want to remain in compliance with your insurance policy—it is a contract, after all— but if you have applicable coverage, you need to contact your insurer to file a claim as soon as possible. Your insurance policy could include a deadline for filing a claim. Many companies require policyholders to file within 30 days.
It’s important that you only call to report the accident or initiate a claim. Do not give any details about your injuries or your actions before or during the crash. Simply tell the insurance adjuster what happened in as few words as possible. Do not give a recorded statement without considering legal help.
Consider Calling a Car Accident Lawyer
A car accident lawyer can provide the necessary guidance as you deal with the aftermath of a hit-and-run crash. A lawyer can protect your rights and help you file a claim for compensation against the liable party or your own insurance. A personal injury attorney can advise you on your communications with the insurance company, letting you know what information to provide when answering questions. Moreover, they can deal with the insurance company directly on your behalf.
Your hit-and-run accident attorney will have the resources to investigate the crash, help you obtain proper medical treatment, and fight a legal battle if that becomes necessary to recover adequate compensation. Ultimately, their job is to take the weight off your shoulders following the crash and protect your interests. They can even facilitate locating the hit-and-run driver and holding them accountable.
Additional Tips for Hit-and-Run Accidents
Here are a few more tips on what to do after a hit-and-run collision.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
If your doctor recommends something, follow through with it. That may involve visiting a therapist, taking certain medications, and limiting your physical activity. By following your doctor’s orders, you show the insurer that you’re committed to making a full recovery. You also show that you’re not making your condition worse.
Keep Records of Your Expenses
Save any bills, receipts, or other documentation related to your accident-related expenses. If you had to pay for medical treatment, rent a car, or hire someone to perform tasks to around the house, these are recoverable expenses.
You can recover a variety of expenses, so you want to have a record of them. Your car accident lawyer will use these records to help calculate the value of your hit-and-run case and file a claim for compensation that fully covers your losses.
You Have Legal Options After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Your insurance company could pay for the hit-and-run accident if you have proper coverage. The coverage you have will vary by state, and how that coverage applies to a hit-and-run accident depends on your insurer.
First-Party Insurance and Personal Injury Protection
Almost every state requires drivers to carry auto insurance. If you live in a no-fault state, you must carry personal injury protection (PIP) or other first-party insurance, such as MedPay, along with property damage insurance. First-party coverage and PIP insurance cover the policyholder regardless of who is at fault. You can file a claim against your first-party insurance immediately following the hit-and-run accident.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection
Some states also require uninsured/underinsured motorist protection (UM/UIM). This insurance covers drivers involved in accidents when an at-fault driver does not have liability insurance coverage, the at-fault driver’s coverage is insufficient, or when there is a hit-and-run. Where UM/UIM is not mandatory, drivers have the option to purchase it in many states. If you have uninsured/underinsured protection, you could recoup damages via this avenue after a hit-and-run collision.
UM/UIM covers medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and any other financial or non-financial loss that result from the car accident. Unfortunately, there may be cases where the insurance policy does not cover hit-and-runs. For this reason, it could be in your best interest to contact a car accident attorney to help you understand your policy.
Collision coverage provides financial protection for your car if you experience vehicle damage in a car accident. Drivers with this coverage can file a claim to repair or replace their vehicle after a hit-and-run accident.
Another Party Could Have Liability for Your Losses
If you partner with a lawyer, their investigation may find that another party has liability for your losses. This could offer a route for seeking financial recovery. For instance, although you were hit by a negligent driver, poor roadway conditions could have ultimately caused the crash.
In that instance, you could sue the government agency responsible for the roadway’s maintenance. That could provide the funds you need to move forward with your life.
How Does the Law Define Hit-and-Run Collisions?
A hit-and-run is a car accident where one driver flees the scene without giving aid to others injured, providing contact information, or calling the police. Some hit-and-run accidents only involve one motorist, like when someone strikes a stationary object and doesn’t report it.
With collisions involving multiple people, drivers are legally obligated to render aid to those who are injured, provide their contact and insurance information, and notify law enforcement. Otherwise, they could face criminal penalties, including fines and license suspension.
Hit-and-Run Accidents Are Common in the U.S.
Hit-and-runs are more common than you might believe. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there’s a hit-and-run crash every 43 seconds in the United States.
Only a very small percentage of these cases are actually solved by police, with some cities like Chicago reporting 0.3 percent of solved cases and others like Los Angeles reporting 8 percent of hit-and-run cases solved. Lack of evidence in these situations leaves officers in a bind and families feeling powerless and angry.
Dealing With a Hit-and-Run Crash Is Easier When You Know What to Do
This may be a stressful and overwhelming situation. Yet, knowing what to do after a hit-and-run accident can make things easier. A dedicated car accident lawyer can further facilitate your ability to cope and recover financially after the crash.