After a hit-and-run accident, you would take the same steps as you would following any other traffic accident, which includes:
- Securing the accident scene
- Calling 911 and reporting the incident
- Documenting the accident scene by taking photos
- Seeking prompt medical attention
- Consider consulting a personal injury law firm that handles hit-and-run accident cases
- Refraining from giving the insurance company too much information
Even if you cannot track down the hit-and-run driver, you may still have options for seeking compensation. A car accident attorney can help determine your possible next steps when they review your case.
Secure the Accident Scene
After a hit-and-run driver flees the scene, all you can do is make sure that you and your passengers are safe. If anyone has been injured, call 911, and render first aid until the paramedics arrive. This may require applying pressure to open wounds, performing CPR, and otherwise stabilizing someone’s condition.
It may be best to stay where you are, but if your vehicle obstructs traffic, pull over to the road’s shoulder. Otherwise, you may leave yourself vulnerable to suffering injuries in another accident.
Call Law Enforcement
Despite the other driver fleeing the scene, you still must contact the authorities. Most states require that car accident victims notify law enforcement if anyone is injured, passes away, or if property damage exceeds a certain amount.
When the police arrive, give them basic details about what happened, and let them know that the other driver left the scene. Once they write up the report, you can pick it up from your local precinct or request a copy online within a given number of days. This report can work as valuable evidence when you file a claim or lawsuit for compensation.
Document the Accident Scene
If your injuries permit, document the accident scene. Otherwise, try to have someone:
Ask eyewitnesses for their names and contact information, as their testimony may serve as valuable evidence later Take photos and videos of your visible injuries, your damaged vehicle, and the crash scene at different angles
Once you’re able, write down everything you remember about the other driver, like:
- The color, make, and model of the other car
- The car’s license plate number
- What they looked like
- If they had other passengers in the car
- In which direction they went
This information may be able to help authorities find the negligent motorist.
Seek Prompt Medical Attention
If the paramedics come to the accident scene, allow them to examine you. Should they think you need further care, they may recommend you go to the hospital via an ambulance, and you should take their advice.
If medical services never came to the scene, still, go to the hospital or see your primary care physician. You never know how serious your injuries may be, no matter how mild they appear. Sometimes, they need time to manifest before they go into full effect. For example, those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may not exhibit symptoms until a few days or longer after the initial impact.
Seeking medical care sooner rather than later is paramount to your health. In addition, it shows the insurance company that your injury directly resulted from the crash, so it’ll have a tougher time trying to challenge your claim.
Consider Consulting a Personal Injury Firm That Handles Hit-and-Run Accident Cases
You may not know where to turn after you’re hurt in a hit-and-run accident. Fortunately, a personal injury lawyer can help you seek compensation while you rest and recover from the incident.
They can also:
- Obtain a copy of the crash report
- Collect various pieces of evidence
- Track down and identify the hit-and-run driver (if possible)
- Handle all communications involved in your case
- Evaluate your past and future losses
- Fight for a favorable settlement during negotiations with the insurance company
- Comply with the time limits that the state has imposed
- Pursue your case before a jury if they cannot agree on a settlement with the insurance company
- Update you on how your case progresses
Usually, personal injury law firms operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning they cover all expenses associated with your case. That way, you owe nothing out of pocket, hourly, or upfront. Your attorney only receives payment if they recover compensation for you.
Refrain From Giving the Insurance Company Too Much Information
Many insurance companies require their policyholders to notify them about an accident within 30 days or so. Still, exercise caution when you speak with representatives. It’s understandable to want to have your voice heard after such a traumatic event, but it’s best to refrain. Insurance companies, including your own, have a bottom line they strive to protect.
That is, when you tell your side of the story, they may look for loopholes that give them the opportunity to drag out, devalue, or deny your claim. With that, when they ask you what happened, only give basic details about the crash, like the date, time, location, and that the other driver fled the scene. Also, pass along your attorney’s contact information; they can take care of your claim and everything it requires.
Personal injury lawyers have the experience and knowledge to sense when insurance companies try to engage in bad faith practices. They can safeguard your rights and fight for the damages you need.
What Should I Avoid After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
While there are many post-accident considerations that could bolster your claim’s outcome, there are also many things to avoid.
Some of these measures include:
- Sharing information about the incident online. No matter how tight your privacy settings are, the claims adjuster could still access your social media pages. Anything you share could give the insurer ammo to challenge your case.
- Forgoing medical care. Seeking medical care after your accident is one of the most important things you can do. It shows that you suffered injuries in a collision and required medical care. Forgoing medical care not only puts your health at risk; it puts your claim’s resolution at risk, too.
- Hastily accepting a settlement offer. The insurance company’s first offer likely doesn’t account for each of your injury-related losses. It could even be a tactic to resolve your case as quickly (and as cheaply) as possible. Your lawyer can assess all settlement offers and advise you accordingly.
- Attempting to find the hit-and-run motorist on your own. Now, you deserve this time to focus on recovering from your condition. You shouldn’t be patrolling the streets looking for the driver who hit you. Your lawyer and their team of investigators can use their resources to locate the at-fault driver.
Your legal team can offer more insight into your post-accident considerations during your free case review.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Hit-and-Run Accidents
You might feel overwhelmed in the aftermath of your hit-and-run accident. Understandably, you could have many questions, some of which may be listed below:
How Can I Obtain Compensation When the Other Driver Leaves the Scene?
It’s not uncommon for law enforcement to find the driver who fled the accident scene. In that case, you may have grounds to file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the negligent motorist.
However, if they don’t locate them, you’re not out of luck in recovering compensation.
Some of your options may include:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage: Although not required by most states, many insurance companies must offer this coverage to policyholders. It typically covers damages when the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough or any insurance.
- MedPay: This insurance usually pays off your accident-related medical bills up to the liability policy’s limits.
You may have other avenues to compensate based on the types of coverage you purchased.
What Damages Can I Receive Through a Claim or Lawsuit?
The damages you can recover following a hit-and-run accident depend on your physical, financial, and emotional states.
However, common forms of compensation victims pursue in these cases include:
- Past and future medical bills: This compensation may cover the ambulance ride, diagnostic tests, surgeries, pain medications, hospitalizations, mobility equipment, follow-up care, and physical therapy.
- Lost income: The doctor may recommend that you reduce your working hours or take time off work altogether. In that instance, you could recoup hourly wages, bonuses, commissions, tips, and other forms of revenue.
- Future loss of earning capacity: If your injuries are so severe that you must take a less strenuous job or stop working, you could seek recovery for this change in your working capacity.
- Property damage costs: Your car may have been damaged or totaled. Compensation could account for its repairs or replacement costs.
- Pain and suffering: From whiplash to broken bones to TBIs, injuries from a car accident can lead to severe pain. Pain and suffering reflect the trauma the collision inflicted.
- Disfigurement: The injuries you suffered in a hit-and-run accident may keep you from moving freely or alter the way you look.
- Mental anguish: Being involved in a hit-and-run crash can be a traumatizing experience. As a result, you may experience mental health problems, like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, phobias, and/or insomnia.
Some people tragically lose their lives in hit-and-run accidents. If that were the case for your family member, you may benefit from a wrongful death case. The damages you collect may recover lost financial support, funeral and burial service costs, end-of-life medical expenses, and/or loss of consortium, household services, and parental guidance.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit Against the Other Driver?
Sometimes, car accident claimants must file lawsuits to recover damages. If you want to file a lawsuit, you must do so within a prescribed deadline, called the “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations serves as a legal deadline by which you must file your case. This time frame typically ranges from one to four years.
For this reason, you may want to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If you wait to file your lawsuit, you risk missing the state’s deadline. As a result, the court may dismiss your lawsuit and release the other party from financial responsibility.
Getting in touch with a law firm sooner rather than later can also benefit the validity of your case. For example, if there were witnesses to the crash, an attorney can contact them and get their side of the story while the details of what happened are still fresh in their minds. In addition, traffic camera footage or business surveillance might have captured the accident, which could help identify the hit-and-run driver. With prompt notice, your lawyer can obtain that footage and use it to your benefit.
What Are the Penalties for a Driver Who Flees the Accident Scene?
If the police find the hit-and-run driver, they may face various penalties, like jail time and fines. The severity of these punishments depends on state law, how many similar offenses they have committed, and how their behavior led to the crash.
Occasionally, courts sometimes award hit-and-run accident victims punitive damages. These damages intend to punish the defendant for their gross negligence and send a warning to the other public not to commit such an offense.
Why Do Drivers Flee the Scene?
Since it’s against the law, and the state may inflict harsh penalties, why would someone flee the scene of an accident?
It may be because:
- The driver doesn’t have enough or any insurance, so they’re afraid they’ll face certain penalties.
- They stole the car, or it doesn’t have proper registration.
- They were in a panic and afraid of legal repercussions.
- They were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- The police have a warrant for their arrest.
Whatever the case, there’s never a good reason to leave the scene of a crash. Your legal team can hold the negligent driver accountable for their actions and seek financial justice.