Even a minor car injury is a stressful experience, but a hit-and-run injury is a complicated situation. Not only do you have to deal with the fallout of the crash, including fixing your car and contacting your insurance company, but you also don’t have any help from the other person involved in the accident. Specific laws regarding a hit-and-run accident vary by state. Generally, though, drivers involved in an accident that caused death, injury, or property damage must provide the following information to the other driver:
Insurance company contact information
Car registration number
Driver’s license number
If a driver does not stop and offer this information after an accident, they may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Some states also require that drivers involved in an accident assist an injured person by calling EMS or taking the individual to the hospital. Failing to do so can lead to serious legal consequences.
Unfortunately, despite the penalties for fleeing the scene, hit-and-run accidents happen pretty frequently. Drivers may flee the crash location if they’re at fault, even if witnesses are to the stage. If you find yourself involved in a hit and run, try not to panic. Focus on your safety first, and then go through the process of contacting law enforcement and your insurance provider. Keeping a cool head during the experience will help you settle everything with minimal problems.
Here are seven things to do if you’re involved in a hit and run car accident:
Check for injuries
It’s normal to experience shock after a crash, especially a serious one. When your body experiences a trauma, you might not notice right away that you’ve been injured. You may not feel pain even if you’ve hit your head or are bleeding. Before getting out of the car or doing anything else, check your body for injuries, and ask the other passengers in the vehicle if they’re hurt.
Head, neck, and back injuries are especially dangerous after a car accident. After suffering a spinal trauma, moving could make the injury worse. If you or another passenger has a spinal injury, stay put until emergency responders arrive to help you get out of the car safely.
If you don’t think you’re injured, you should then check to see if your car is in a safe location. If you’re concerned that your car will be hit again or that you’ll be in danger when exiting the car, move to a safer place if possible. In the event of a severe crash, you may not be able to drive your car. However, if your car is still in functional condition, pull to the side of the road, into a nearby parking lot, or somewhere else where you’re away from other traffic.
Call 9-1-1 or law enforcement
As soon as possible, contact emergency responders about the situation. You should dial 9-1-1 immediately if someone is injured to make sure they get the care they need. If the accident was severe, calling 9-1-1 will also ensure that police arrive on the scene as soon as possible to redirect traffic and offer assistance.
You could call your local police station directly to report the accident for mild accidents with no injuries. Even if the damage to your car looks minimal, you must file a police report for a hit and run. The official report will be beneficial for your insurance company, and it may open the door for a car injury lawsuit if you can find the driver.
Don’t try to chase the other driver
Anger and panic are normal responses after a hit and run. You may see the driver flee the scene and be tempted to follow them to stop them or to get their vehicle information. This is a risky decision for several reasons, though.
If you sustained a car injury during the accident, continuing to drive could be extremely dangerous. Not only will this delay you getting the medical attention you need, but a head injury or blood loss could affect your ability to drive. You’d probably have to drive quickly and dangerously to catch up to the fleeing driver, too, which puts you at risk for another collision.
Continuing to drive after the accident could worsen any damage done to your car as well. Even if your car only appears to have some dents, there might be underlying damage that makes the vehicle unsafe. Also, when filing the police report, the officers will want to see the crash scene to document the event accurately. If you leave the scene along with the other driver, they won’t describe what happened in as much detail.
Additionally, a driver who has just fled the scene of a crash is probably thinking erratically. If they realized that they caused an accident and chose to drive away, they have already shown a disregard for other drivers. When they know that you’re following them, they will likely continue to make dangerous choices that could put you at risk.
Record as much information about the other driver who caused the car injury
After calling emergency responders, start trying to recall everything you can about the other driver. Here are some critical pieces of information that could help law enforcement identify the individual:
Make and model of vehicle
Color of car, bumper stickers, or other identifying features
Damage to vehicle from the collision
License plate state and number
The direction the car traveled while fleeing
Depending on how the accident happened, you may not have had a chance to get much information about the vehicle or the driver. Don’t worry if you don’t have many details to offer law enforcement. Even describing the make and color of the car can be very helpful.
Speak to witnesses
Not all hit and runs have witnesses, so you may be the only person who can report to the police. In many cases, though, at least one other person saw the accident. If anyone stops to help, be sure to get their account of what happened. Witnesses can provide a valuable perspective on what happened during the accident, and they may be able to offer more information to identify the other driver.
If the accident happened near any stores or businesses, contact the owners to see if they have security cameras that may have caught the crash on video. Any additional information you can get about the collision will help your case. The police who respond to the crash will probably interview witnesses on the scene, but you can also contact witnesses to get more information for your insurance claim. Make sure to get their names and contact information, too, if you need to follow up with them.
Contact your insurance company about the car injury
Once you’re home safe after the accident, it’s time to contact your insurance company. You should call your provider as soon as possible so that you can report the details of the collision while it’s fresh in your mind.
In many cases, hit and run accidents are covered either under your collision policy or your uninsured motorist policy. The amount of coverage varies from plan to plan, but most people involved in hit and runs will be reimbursed for the damage to their vehicle.
Most states require that drivers have liability insurance to cover damages they cause to others during an accident. If the at-fault driver leaves the scene, though, you won’t have their insurance information. This is why it’s so important for drivers to carry collision or uninsured motorist policies in addition to liability insurance. While carrying the minimum amount of insurance may reduce your monthly bill, it can be financially devastating during a hit and run.
Speak with a car injury attorney
If you or your property was injured in a hit and run, you might be able to take legal action. If you or law enforcement can identify the driver, you can seek compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering. Car injury cases can be lengthy and complicated, though, so you should contact an attorney right away if you want to pursue legal action.
Working with a car injury lawyer can be helpful even if you can’t identify the driver or decide not to take legal action. Your attorney can help you communicate with your insurance company as you file the claim, which may result in you getting more compensation. Legal assistance is beneficial if you’ve been physically injured or are experiencing emotional turmoil after the accident. You should focus your energy on recovering, and a car injury attorney will take care of much of the paperwork to have less on your mind.
A hit and run can be an incredibly frustrating and scary situation. Still, by staying calm and gathering as much documentation as possible, you should be able to receive the resources you need. Please keep an open line of communication with your insurance company as they can answer any questions you have about repairs or reimbursement. If you were injured during the crash, consulting with a lawyer can be a valuable option as well. Most importantly, be sure to take care of yourself after the accident. A car injury can be devastating, so keep your physical and mental well-being at the forefront of your mind as you deal with the accident.