Every Driver Must Know – What Do I Do If I Was Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), about 682,000 hit-and-run accidents happen each year across the country. To put that figure into a different perspective, a hit-and-run accident occurs about once every 45 seconds, many of them causing serious injuries or fatalities. The unfortunate truth to learn from these statistics is that you are put at unfair risk of being involved in a hit-and-run accident each time you get behind the wheel, merely by their prevalence.
In case you are ever hit by a reckless or negligent driver who flees the car accident scene before you have a chance to identify them, you are going to want to know ahead of time what to do next. Starting with understanding what constitutes a hit-and-run accident, crash, or collision. A hit-and-run accident according to the definition of DMV.org is “any accident in which a driver intentionally leaves the scene without providing contact information.” Common occurrences that count as a hit-and-run are a driver hitting another vehicle and racing off, or a driver hitting an unattended parked vehicle and not leaving behind contact or insurance info.
What Should I Do If I’m In a Hit-and-Run?
Hit-and-run accidents are not just frustrations to innocent, responsible motorists, but also nightmares for insurance companies. Every year, insurance companies get fraudulent hit-and-run claims. Hence, most major insurance companies, like State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, treat hit-and-run accident with a lot more scrutiny and take a lot more care in verifying the credibility of the incident. As such, try to take the time to educate yourself about what to do after a hit-and-run collision to protect your best interests and build a better claim.
Here are some tips on the dos and don’ts after a hit-and-run:
- Get whatever information you can: If you are involved in a hit-and-run in which you saw the other vehicle, then you have a chance of collecting useful information for your consequent claim. You can take photographs of your own vehicle, as well as noting the time, date, and reason why you think the crash happened. Try to also remember key details about the other driver, including:
- Any portion of their license plate;
- Color, make, and model of their vehicle;
- Location and extent of damaged caused to the other vehicle;
- Where the other vehicle headed after the crash.
- Call the police: Carrying out a hit-and-run accident is strictly illegal in all 50 States. According to Nolo, most states qualify a hit-and-run accident as a high level misdemeanor, and there are factors that can escalate the violation to a felony crime. To help remove the driver from the road before they hurt someone else, and to improve your chances of receiving fair coverage or compensation for your damages, you should call the police as soon as you can after being involved in a hit-and-run accident. With your description of the perpetrator, and with a little bit of luck, it might be possible for highway patrol officers to locate the person who hit you. In such a fortuitous change of circumstances, you would not technically be in a hit-and-run accident anymore, and you could move your case forward as if it was a normal car accident claim. Should the perpetrator not be located, the police report would give more credibility to your side of the story.
- Stay put: After you are hit by a negligent driver who leaves before sharing insurance information, you should not leave the scene yourself. It might seem odd to wait around without anyone else around, but it is important you do so. If you leave the scene before discussing the matter with a police officer, then your insurance provider might begin to wonder if you were actually the one at fault for the crash. Even worse, if you try to chase the fleeing suspect, you could end up causing another accident. Be safe and be cautious by staying where you are until you talk with police and feel like you have gathered as much evidence as you can. Of course, if you need to leave via emergency medical transit due to a severe injury, please go. Always take care of your health.
- Talk to potential witnesses: One last source to find evidence to increase your chances of getting the recovery you deserve after a hit-and-run accident is eyewitness testimonies. As unthinkable as it might be, many hit-and-run accidents are conducted in broad daylight and with people all around to see it happen. Talk to anyone you can to ask if they saw anything that could be useful to your claim. The more pairs of eyes on the crash, the better. When you do find someone who is cooperative, ask if you can get their contact information for future discussions. You would probably be surprised with how many Good Samaritans there are who want to help you.
- Always tell the truth: As a quick word to the wise, you must never claim you were in a hit-and-run accident fraudulently. Some dishonest drivers strike an inanimate object, or a parked car, and call their insurance companies later to try to claim they were involved in a hit-and-run accident. Insurers are acutely aware of such fraudulent claims, investigate them thoroughly, and do not hesitate to bring criminal accusations against anyone caught filing a fraudulent claim.
The last thing you should know about hit-and-run accident claims is that car accident attorneys can be monumentally helpful to you. Hit-and-run cases where the perpetrator cannot be located are paid out of the uninsured motorist coverage part of the car insurance policy. What most people don’t know is that the insurance policy is a contract between the insured and the insurance company. Rarely do we the simple people get an entire copy of the policy BEFORE buying into the insurance policy and rarely are we explained the fine print.
It comes a s surprise to most that the insurance policy is full of conditions and exclusions to coverage. Moreover, the insurance company has lots of rights in a first-party case which uninsured motorist claim falls under. They have the right to take your statement under oath as many times as they want, they have the right to request your prior health history, to name a few. Trying to manage a typical car accident claim can be problematic if you are not familiar with personal injury and tort laws and insurance policy regulations. Matters will only get more complicated for a hit-and-run case. Indeed, your own insurance company will likely resist providing you any sort of coverage, even if you have uninsured-underinsured motorist insurance as part of your policy. With an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side, you can confidently move your case ahead without worrying about key elements you might have otherwise overlooked.
Your Trusted & Compassionate Los Angeles Hit & Run Accident Attorney
At Law Offices of Jennie Levin, P.C., we believe in providing friendly and reliable legal services to people in need. If you have been hurt in a hit-and-run accident that was not your fault, please let us know what happened during a free confidential evaluation with our team, and we will let you know how we can help. To begin, you can call (323) 951-1188 or use an online contact form, whichever one is more convenient for you.