Hit and run accidents can be traumatizing and for more than one reason. Not only will you likely be suffering from the physical injuries you sustained in the crash, but you may also be dealing with the anxiety and stress of knowing the driver who hit you fled the scene.
It may not seem like you have any recourse, especially in the immediate aftermath of such an accident, but you do have some options, according to Custodio and Dubey, LLP. These options include talking to a lawyer and hiring a private investigator. Depending on what kind of insurance you have, the accident may be covered.
But let’s start with the moments immediately following the accident. What can you do?
Following the Accident
Let’s say you’re the victim of a hit and run. As a pedestrian or a fellow driver, you’ve been hit by another motorist, and they’ve visibly fled the scene.
These are your first priorities:
- Try to collect any information you can. You may only have a few seconds before the fleeing driver is gone forever. Try to regain your senses and collect whatever information you can. Try to remember the make and model of the car that hit you, at the very least, and if possible, collect the license plate. Any details you can remember could be valuable, including any peculiar noises made by the vehicle, what the driver looked like, and the direction they headed immediately following the accident.
- Get to safety. Get to safety as quickly as possible. If you or your car remain in harm’s way, you could end up facing even more injuries and more damage. Even worse, if your car remains in the middle of the road, it could end up being a link in a long chain reaction of further accidents. If the car is drivable, get it to the side of the road, and get yourself to the side of the road as soon as possible without putting yourself in jeopardy.
- Call the police and file a report. Having a police report on file is a practical necessity. It’s going to serve an important purpose in the investigations and insurance procedures to follow, and it could be the first step in a successful police investigation. Call the police immediately and file a report if you can.
- Contact potential witnesses. While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, see if you can find any witnesses to the crime. Other drivers may have pulled over; ask them if they were able to get a license plate or collect details on the vehicle. Be sure to get their contact information, too, so you can follow up with them if necessary.
- Get medical attention. If you’ve suffered serious injuries, you should call an ambulance before anything else. If you’ve only suffered light to moderate injuries, it’s still a good idea to get checked out at a local hospital—but you may be able to do this after the scene is cleared and the police report is filed.
Most car insurance companies offer what’s known as uninsured and/or underinsured coverage. Basically, this coverage kicks in when an uninsured motorist or a motorist with insufficient insurance coverage is found at fault in an accident involving your vehicle. In many cases, this also applies to a hit and run; if the fleeing driver is found to be at fault for the accident, this portion of your insurance policy should cover the damages.
However, this still isn’t ideal. If the fleeing driver gets away without penalty, they may be likely to commit the offense again in the future. Plus, even if your insurance policy covers the initial damage to your vehicle, your insurance premiums may increase in the months and years that follow.
Talking to a Lawyer
In the days that follow your accident, try to get in contact with a lawyer. Most lawyers offer a free initial consultation, so you have nothing to lose by doing this. Give them a copy of the police report and discuss all the details of your case. Depending on the situation, they may have the resources necessary to help track down the offending driver—and hold them accountable for the accident. They may also be able to recommend an alternate course of action; for example, they may recommend you hire a private investigator, or may be frank and tell you there isn’t much hope of catching the fleeing driver.
Being on the receiving end of a hit and run can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the line. If you react quickly and collect whatever information you can, and if you spend some time working with a lawyer and/or your insurance company, there’s a good chance you can recover some, if not all of the damages.