Hit and run accidents are always making news. In fact, the number of such accidents in the U.S. only seem to increase every year. According to usatoday.com, there had been a “13.7% increase in hit-and-run deaths” between the years 2009 and 2011, while “traffic deaths overall were falling 4.5%, from 33,883 in 2009 to 32,367 in 2011.”
A hit and run accident is one in which the driver responsible for the collision intentionally flees the scene without providing his/her contact details and insurance information, or offering any kind of assistance/aid to those injured in the accident.
If you’ve been at the receiving end of a hit and run accident, you’re bound to feel disoriented, disillusioned, and above all, infuriated at the probability of never being able find the person responsible for your losses. Moreover, your insurer will have zero access to a third party to make a claim for the damage done to you, your passengers, or your vehicle, thereby leaving you in a lurch.
There are, however, a few things the victim of a hit and run accident can do to up his/her chances of adequately recovering adequately for the losses incurred. Keep reading to know what to do if you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident.
Call the Police
While you’re bound to be left overwhelmed by the accident, it is important that you stay calm and composed. Make it a point to call the police as soon as possible. They will make an accident report, for which they will require information about the precise location of the accident, names of possible witnesses, and the direction in which the driver fled.
To fortify your case against the driver responsible for your losses and bring him to book, collect as much evidence as you can from the site of the accident while you’re waiting for the police to arrive. Make a clear note of the following:
- License plate number, even if you can only get a part of it
- The state the license plate was issued in
- Make, model and color of the vehicle
- Distinctive characteristics of the vehicle, such as bumper stickers, dents, etc.
- Time and place of the accident
- Traffic camera fixtures
Additionally, if you’re able to catch a glimpse of the driver, make a note of his appearance including gender, hair color and style, complexion, clothing, and so on. If you get a look of the passengers, note down details about their appearances too. This information will come in handy when the police begin their investigation.
If there are people (who witnessed the accident) present at the site of the accident, speak to them and see if they have any information. Ask them for their names and contact details so you can speak to them later.
It is also important to take pictures of the scene of the accident and your car. Take several wide-angle and close-up shots, especially of the damaged areas.
File a Hit and Run Claim
Without wasting any time, bring the accident to the notice of your insurance company. You will have to provide them with a copy of all the information that you collected, and let them know that a report has been filed with the police.
If you’re able to catch hold of the person who hit you, you can avail their car insurance information from your insurance company and file a claim with their car insurance company.
If the person who hit you does not carry adequate protection, you can try to get compensation by turning to the legal system with the help of a lawyer.
If you cannot identify the driver, or the driver does not have sufficient insurance to cover your costs, you can file the following claim (or claims) with your own car insurance company:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage, which covers medical expenses.
- Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) coverage, which covers car repairs.
Call Your Lawyer
There’s no doubt that the victim of a hit and run accident would be left shocked and shaken. This is bound to leave them perplexed and hope that justice be meted out. However, police aren’t always able to track down every hit and run driver. In such cases, engaging the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer can be of immense help.
Sometimes, your attorney can help you locate the absconding driver with the help of the license plate number. He can also help you hold the driver accountable for his action by bringing a lawsuit against him. Apart from that, a skilled lawyer can maximize the value of your claim against your insurance company on the uninsured motorist policy.
Stay at the Accident Site
When involved in a serious incident such as a car accident, make sure you don’t flee from the site of the episode. Being physically present until the police asks you to leave is not only your moral obligation, but also a legal one.
If the accident causes injury to or death of a person and you abscond from the scene without providing your details, it could count as felony, which can attract jail time and a hefty fine. Plus, you can be subjected to more stringent civil penalties.
You should provide details such as your name, your address, and the registration number of your vehicle, and even produce your driver’s license upon request.
Further, you should also provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident. This includes taking them to the hospital. The duty/obligation to remain at the scene applies to you even if you aren’t at fault.
Being involved in a hit and run accident can be an unnerving experience for the victim as well as the driver responsible for the collision. Such incidents can have severe legal and financial ramifications. While nothing can make up for the losses suffered by the victim, he can at least achieve a degree of respite by bringing the culprit to book. The responsible driver, on the other hand, needs to fulfill his legal obligations as well. The above pointers should help drivers understand the gravity of hit and run accidents and what they entail. They will, hopefully, also inspire you exercise utmost caution and act responsibly when on the road.
Jenniffer Pickard is a freelance content writer specialized in producing high-quality and original content. She is passionate about researching and writing for diverse industries. In her spare time, she hangs out with her friends and whips up delectable desserts.