What To Do as a Victim of a Hit and Run Car Accident
Car accidents are one of the most dangerous experiences an individual may suffer. It is especially life-threatening when the responsible party flees the scene. When involved in a hit and run accident, people have a higher chance of facing disability or death from injuries because it may take some time for someone else to discover them.
While hit and run accidents do not always lead to serious injuries, virtually every jurisdiction treats it as a criminal offense. If identified, the individual who fled could face jail time. An experienced attorney can help you pursue compensation for your injuries, even if you never discover who fled the scene.
What Is a Hit and Run Accident?
Accidents become hit and runs when one individual leaves the scene without exchanging information or assisting injured parties. In some cases, the person may initially stop but then leave before providing contact information. Some states consider an accident a hit and run even if another person was not present and even if it did not occur on a road or highway.
Sometimes, people flee the scene even when they are not the person who caused the accident. Drivers often flee for the following reasons, whether they caused the accident or not:
- Unauthorized use of the vehicle, which may include stealing the vehicle
- Uninsured, underinsured or unlicensed driving
- Possession of illegal substances inside the vehicle or on his or her person
- Presence of children in the vehicle and the potential for reckless endangerment charges
- Impairment from drugs or alcohol
- Injury or death of victims in the other vehicle
What Are Some Types of Hit and Run Accidents?
There are no established ways to classify hit and run accidents. Some reports classify them based on property damage, injuries and death. One of the most common ways people categorize hit and run accidents is to identify who or what suffered injury or damage:
- Motorcycle riders
- Parked cars
- Driven cars
- Stationary objects
What Should Hit and Run Victims Do After an Accident?
People often panic when someone crashes into them and flees the scene. When they are coherent and the car is still drivable, it is not uncommon for drivers to pursue the fleeing person. As tempting as this is, insurance companies advise against it. Law enforcement also frowns upon this practice because it could potentially put other road users at risk and escalate into a more deadly situation. Instead, drivers may consider the following course of action.
1. Check for Injuries
If you had not yet stopped the car, now is the time to do so. You should also check to ensure you have not suffered any immediate injuries. Then, check on other occupants in the vehicle. If the hit and run driver also plowed into others, offer assistance if you can. Even if you do not detect immediate injuries, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some injuries take time to surface. Only a medical doctor can determine if you have injuries.
2. Collect Information
If you saw the car that hit you, take a moment to jot down everything you remember. Someone else might have also witnessed the accident and could even have taken a photo or video. Nearby traffic cameras and business CCTVs are also a good source to check for footage. Finally, vehicles with dash cams installed may have video footage. Parked cars, for instance, may be equipped with dash cams that automatically begin recording when they detect a collision. This is some of the information State Farm recommends recording:
- Location, date and time of the accident
- License plate number, even if you only remember pieces of it
- Vehicle’s color, make or model
- The direction the driver fled in
- Description of potential damage caused to the other vehicle
- Photos of the damage caused to your vehicle
3. Call 911
Call the police to report the accident and to alert officers to the crash. In some cases, when police officers receive timely information about where the accident happened, the direction the driver fled in and a description of the vehicle, they are able to find and arrest them. Don’t wait until your insurance company requires a report to call in the accident.
4. Call an Attorney
Most experienced hit and run attorneys recommend speaking with them before reaching out to your insurance company. This is because, unfortunately, many insurance companies may use your own words against you to get out of covering the damage via your policy. Your attorney can guide you through the process.
5. Report the Accident To Your Insurance Company
Some insurance companies may allow you to report the accident via an app. Older and smaller companies may require you to give them a call. Allstate shares that one or more of the following coverages may pay for the accident, but that depends on your policy and the state you live in:
- Uninsured motorist property damage
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury
- Personal injury protection
- Medical payments
What Happens If the Person Is Identified?
If law enforcement officers positively identify the individual who caused the accident, the person could face criminal charges. This is especially likely if the individual caused serious property damage, injuries or death. You could find yourself participating in both a civil and criminal case against the individual. Your insurance company may also become more cooperative because that person’s car insurance provider, if they have one, now becomes liable for the damages.
Work With an Experienced Local Attorney
There is no specific insurance coverage for hit and run accidents. State laws also differ on what coverages you may use to pay for damages related to this type of accident. For instance, California does not allow hit and run victims to use underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage for hit and run accidents. This complicates the compensation process.
An attorney can help you determine what your options are. Your attorney will also tell you how much your case is worth and assist you with reviewing the proposals you receive. He or she may actively negotiate on your behalf. If the case ends up in court, your attorney may need to take an aggressive stance at trial to ensure you get what you deserve.
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