Hit and run accidents are highly illegal and highly dangerous. They can also be highly destructive, leaving their victims healing from physical injuries and dealing with emotional trauma for years to come. But the more you know about them, the more you’ll be able to avoid them – and potentially get the help you need if you are the victim of one.
The Definition of a Hit and Run
Traffic laws in many countries specifically describe a “hit and run” accident as one in which a person causes a traffic collision and doesn’t stop immediately afterward. It’s your legal responsibility to take accountability for a traffic accident you caused; that means pulling over, getting out of your vehicle, and exchanging information. If you flee the scene, you could be found guilty of a hit and run.
Depending on the location of the incident, the penalties are often severe. In addition to facing penalties for the accident itself, you may have your driver’s license suspended or completely revoked. You may also face higher insurance costs, additional punitive fines, or imprisonment.
Why People Flee the Scene
There are a few common reasons why people flee the scene after an accident, but nearly all of them are rooted in escaping the consequences. According to Dozier Law, hit and run accidents can leave the victim killed or in critical condition; if a driver suspects they’ll be accused of manslaughter, they may believe they could face life in prison. That, in turn, means they have nothing to lose, so they take the risk of fleeing.
It’s also common for hit and run drivers to flee because they either face strict penalties or because they don’t understand the penalties of the accident itself. Someone driving with a suspended license may realize their license could be taken away permanently (and they could land in jail) if they’re forced to admit they were driving and caused an accident. A young teen learning to drive for the first time may feel overwhelmed and panic upon seeing the damage of the accident – and flee in fear.
How to Prepare For (and Potentially Avoid) Hit and Run Accidents
Since the perpetrator of a hit and run accident is, by definition, responsible for the accident, you don’t have much control over whether or not the accident occurs. However, there are some steps you can take to proactively prepare for (and maybe avoid) hit and run accidents happening to you:
- Obey traffic laws and be safe. This should go without saying, but make sure you’re obeying all traffic laws and are driving (or walking) safely. If you act in a predictable, safe, and consistent way, you’ll be less likely to be struck by a vehicle – even if it’s not being operated safely.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Additionally, pay close attention to your surroundings at all times. If there’s a nearby driver that’s driving erratically, avoid them. If visibility is low or conditions are tumultuous, drive with extra caution.
- Invest in a dash cam. Invest in a dash cam and keep it running at all times. This will give you a steady feed of the things happening in your immediate vicinity. This way, if you’re hit by another car and the driver flees, you’ll have a good chance of catching their license plate – or at least proving how and when the accident occurred.
And of course, if you ever cause an accident yourself, it’s important to take the time to stop – even if you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed.
What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
If a hit and run accident happens to you, these are the steps you should take:
- Remain calm. First, it’s important to remain calm. This will help you make more rational decisions. Additionally, panicking or yelling at the other driver may incite them to flee faster. Instead, try to remain as rational and level-headed as possible.
- Don’t pursue. Don’t follow the fleeing driver, even if you feel like you can catch up to them. Doing so puts you and other drivers at immediate risk of further harm – plus, you could be held criminally liable for any damage you cause. Instead, try to gather whatever information you can at a distance. Try to remember the license plate number, the make and model of the vehicle, and a brief description of the person driving (if you can).
- Get to safety. Get to safety as soon as possible. If the car can be driven, pull it over to the side. Get yourself off the road and behind a barrier (if you can). The last thing you need is further injuries.
- Call for help. Call 911 if you or anyone else needs immediate medical attention. Otherwise, it’s in your best interest to call for police. This is also a good opportunity to talk to anyone else nearby and see if they witnessed what happened – eyewitnesses can be incredibly valuable for your case later on.
- File a report. No matter what, you should file a police report. This could serve as an official record of how the accident unfolded – and will be vital for proving your case in a court of law. Check the details carefully before signing off.
- Get medical attention. Get yourself checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible, even if you feel like you haven’t been injured. Attend follow-up appointments as necessary.
- Talk to a lawyer. Finally, make sure you talk to a lawyer. They may be able to help you track down the offending driver and ultimately get compensation for the damage to your vehicle, your personal injuries, and even your pain and suffering.
Hopefully, you’ll never be the victim of a hit and run – so you’ll never have to worry about what to do after the accident. But if you’re ever caught off guard with one of these traumatic accidents, you’ll have a good idea of what steps to take first. Ultimately, that could mean getting faster treatment, getting justice, and getting the compensation you deserve.