Experiencing a hit and run accident can be a traumatic event that can completely take you by surprise. The most important factor is that you remain calm after an accident so that you can make good decisions that will improve your outcomes in the future. Following the procedures outlined in this article will help you to protect your interests after becoming the victim of a hit and run accident.
Steps to take after a Hit and Run Accident:
Start With Your Safety
Your first priority in the aftermath of any car accident should be to take initial steps to ensure the safety of you, your passengers, and other drivers. If your vehicle is emitting smoke or flames, you should immediately evacuate the vehicle. First aid should also be administered when you or other drivers are losing significant amounts of blood. You may also want to consider attempting to roll your vehicle away from busy roads or intersections to prevent another crash from occurring. However, you should only move your vehicle when you feel that it is safe to do so. If you are unsure about whether you should take any immediate safety-related actions, you should wait for first responders to show up.
Notify First Responders
As soon as you are safe, you should immediately contact first responders. If you do not have access to a working phone, ask witnesses, pedestrians, or people in nearby stores to place a call for you. Ask if you can place the call yourself so that you can communicate accurate information about the conditions at the scene and your needs. Remember that calls to first responders are recorded and are usually published on the internet. You should, therefore, keep the conversation short and accurate since the content of the phone call will almost certainly be used in court.
Write Down Anything You Know About the Other Driver
Drivers are often unable to remember what happened during an intense accident. You should assume that you will forget what happened in the future, so you will need to immediately write down any specific facts that you can remember. Try to think about what the car that hit you looked like. If you remember the license plate number, write it down immediately. The color and approximate year of the vehicle can also be extremely useful for investigators. You should also try to remember what the driver that hit you looked like. Although you may not have been able to get a good look at the driver, simply knowing the individual’s gender and ethnicity can lead to the perpetrator being brought to justice.
Take Pictures of the Scene
If you have your smartphone with you, be sure to take advantage of its ability to take photos. Try to get as many pictures as you can of your vehicle and the overall crime scene. Although investigators will undoubtedly take their own photos at the scene, it can help to have your own copies. After all, it can be difficult to obtain accident photos from police in some jurisdictions. Investigators may also neglect to take sufficient photos of the scene. It is always advantageous, therefore, to take photos in the immediate aftermath of a crash.
Do Not Touch Potential Evidence
You should remember that the scene of a hit and run accident is ultimately a crime scene. For your case to be held up in court, you will need to avoid tampering with evidence in ways that can get the perpetrator acquitted. You should, for instance, avoid sweeping up broken glass or attempting to fix damage that was done to your car. Modifying potential evidence in any way can make it more difficult for investigators to understand what happened at the scene. You could even be falsely accused of tampering with evidence to cover up wrongdoing. Consequently, it is always advisable to avoid touching potential evidence before investigators arrive.
Eyewitness testimony is important for improving your chances of winning a case in court. Testimony is considered especially credible when it is obtained within minutes of an accident occurring. Furthermore, witnesses may remember specific details about the other driver that can eventually help to catch the perpetrator. You should attempt to conduct your own interviews to obtain as much evidence as you can. You should also try to obtain permission to record any interview that you conduct so that the evidence will be preserved and documented. Video recordings are preferable, but simply recording the audio of your conversation can go a long way toward keeping yourself protected.
Wait for First Responders to Show Up
You can take some of the immediate actions listed above, but you should avoid doing too much before first responders arrive. Again, it is crucial to avoid any possibility of perceptions that you attempted to manipulate the crime scene in any way. For instance, some unethical drivers will attempt to get witnesses to change their opinions about what happened. Although you are likely to have innocent intentions, investigators could question your motives in police reports if you converse too much with witnesses. In some situations, first responders may take over 15 minutes to arrive when they are very busy and perceive your accident to be a low priority. If first responders do not arrive within 15 minutes, make sure that you place a second call to ensure that you provided accurate instructions and that first responders see your case as a priority.
Avoid Leaving the Scene of the Accident
When first responders show up, they may ask you to take a ride down to the police station for questioning. Police officers cannot force you to ride in their vehicle unless they have probable cause indicating that you committed a crime. If you are asked to leave the scene for an interview, you should remain cooperative but request that the interview be conducted at the scene or after the scene has been cleaned up. Delaying the interview also gives you time to contact an attorney who can be with you at the time when you go to the police station for questioning.
Only Go to the Hospital If You Need Medical Assistance
Police protocols often call for an ambulance to be dispatched to the scene of any accident regardless of whether there was an actual injury. Again, you should remain cooperative with medical first responders since they will be required to file a report that will be used in court. If you did not experience any sudden movements or injuries, you should decline to go to the hospital. Going to the hospital on an emergency basis can be very expensive. Most importantly, you want to remain at the scene of the accident so that you can continue interviewing witnesses, gathering your own evidence, and making sure that investigators do their jobs right.
Cooperate With Police
The police will usually be the first people to visit the scene of an accident. In today’s world, police can usually respond in a matter of minutes since there are police around every corner. Upon arriving, police will usually want to start by interviewing you to find out if you need medical assistance and to obtain a general assessment of what happened. You should answer any questions that police ask you. Investigators will usually arrive later, and they may also ask you questions about what happened during the accident. Since the accident was the other driver’s fault, it is only in your interest to provide as much information as possible.
Be Honest When Interviewed by Police
It is crucial for you to be honest with police when you are interviewed. Skilled investigators will usually ask you questions in a way where they will attempt to make you say something that is untrue. Avoid falling for the trap of going along with untrue information since doing so can potentially lead to criminal charges. When in doubt, remember that you always have the right to decline to answer any question. However, you should also avoid seeming evasive since an uncooperative stance will usually be noted in police reports.
Make Sure That the Scene Is Adequately Documented
It sounds good to believe that police will always do their best, but the reality is that attorneys hear horror stories every day about crime victims who did not receive a thorough investigation. Unfortunately, police have a limited amount of time, so they sometimes dismiss traffic accidents as routine issues that do not necessitate an extensive investigation. Make sure that investigators realize that you are very serious about wanting to catch the perpetrator. If you are asked about whether you want to press charges, you should usually answer affirmatively so that investigators have an incentive to pursue the case. Additionally, keep an eye on what investigators are doing at the scene so that you can be sure that they gather sufficient evidence.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
You should contact an attorney as soon as possible in the aftermath of any crash. In the case of a hit and run, attorneys are especially helpful for ensuring that you take the right immediate steps to gather evidence and improve your position in court. Attorneys can also help you to contact your insurance company in the right way so that you will avoid saying things that could lead to the loss of your right to compensation. As a result, you should try to contact an attorney as soon as you are done answering initial questions from police.
Call Your Insurance Company
Once you have contacted a car accident lawyer, you should be prepared to contact your insurance company. It is important to get in touch with your insurance company as quickly as possible so that you can be the first to report the accident to the insurer. In some cases, other parties involved in the hit and run accident may attempt to contact your insurance company first in an attempt to bias the case in their favor. Insurance companies may also be less willing to accept your claims about a hit and run accident when they first discover the accident on their own through online reports. Nevertheless, the most important factor is that you contact your insurance company in the right way, so you should always do so only after receiving advice from your attorney.
Get a Repair Estimate
In many cases, drivers prefer to do their own repairs without the assistance of a mechanic. Under Texas law, drivers are entitled to the full cost of repairs after a car accident that was not their fault regardless of whether they provided the labor themselves or went to a mechanic. Therefore, you should start by going to a mechanic to receive an estimate on the cost of repairing your vehicle. Make sure that you receive a paper copy of your estimate. You should also request that the estimate be signed by the leading manager who is on duty. Once you get the estimate, you can immediately proceed with doing your own repairs or going to another mechanic of your choice.
Be Prepared for the Road Ahead
The reality is that dealing with a hit and run accident will require a significant amount of time and frustration. You should make sure that you keep yourself reachable so that investigators, car accident lawyers, insurers, and other relevant individuals will be able to contact you. A car accident attorney can guide you through the entire process to reduce your stress and ensure that you obtain the best outcome. Be sure to have an attorney at your side throughout the process so that you can return to normal life as quickly as possible.