What to Do If the Other Driver Leaves the Scene of an Accident
Being involved in a car collision is always stressful, but it's made even worse when the driver of the other vehicle turns it into a hit-and-run by driving away from the scene of the accident. Let's cover what you should do if you've pulled off the road and see the other driver speeding away.
Legal Requirements and Consequences
First, let's look at what the hit-and-run driver should have done and consider the possible consequences for them if they're caught.
In most states, drivers involved in an accident with another vehicle are legally required to move quickly to a safe location and then park, if that is possible given the condition of the vehicle. They should then check on the health and safety of everyone who was a driver or a passenger in the vehicles as well as anyone else nearby who may have been injured in the crash. If anyone needs medical attention, they should call for emergency assistance immediately.
The legal consequences of leaving the scene of an accident vary from state to state and depend on whether anyone died or suffered a serious injury. Penalties could include the suspension of the person's driver's license for a number of years, a fine of as much as $20,000, and a prison term of up to 15 years.
Stay at the Scene and Call the Police
Because you are legally responsible for remaining at the scene of an accident, you should not be tempted to chase after the other driver. Nor should you risk trying to catch up with or detain them; it's highly dangerous and unpredictable and can only make the situation more difficult.
You should call the police as soon as you can because an accident report will be crucial in potentially locating the hit-and-run driver and necessary for your insurance claim. The sooner the police are aware of the accident, the sooner they can begin tracking down the driver—hopefully while that person is still on the road.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hit-and-run accidents represent about 11% to 13% of all car crashes.
Take Notes and Photographs, Identify Witnesses
You should prepare yourself to be able to give as much information as possible to the police. Take notes of what happened and snap photographs of the accident scene and any damage to your vehicle.
Ideally, you will be able to give the license plate number of the hit-and-run driver's car. If you can't, you should describe the vehicle—and the driver, if you were able to get a good look at them—in as much detail as possible. The make, model, and color of the vehicle, as well as any helpful identifier, such as a bumper sticker on the vehicle, would all be helpful information. You can also suggest where the other driver's vehicle might be damaged based on the nature of the collision.
You should make note of the time of the accident and the direction the other vehicle was headed when you could last see them.
If there are any witnesses to the accident, ask them to stick around and talk to the police. They may have been in a better position to see the driver or to note the runaway car's license plate. You should also ask them for their name and contact information.
Call Your Insurance Company
Your next call should be to your auto insurance provider. It's a good idea to let them know about the accident—and its hit-and-run nature—right away, so they can begin processing your claim.
Get Medical Assistance
If you are not sure of the extent of your injuries or are not certain you weren't injured, you should strongly consider receiving medical assistance at the scene. If the other driver is apprehended, it would be beneficial for any legal case you make against them if you have medical records establishing a link between the accident and your injuries.
Obtain the Police Report
After you and any witnesses have spoken with the police, ask the officer or officers when the report will be available. Take down their names and badge numbers; that should make obtaining the report easier once it's completed.
Even though it seems unfair, filing a claim for a hit-and-run accident may raise the cost of your car insurance premiums.
Whether you are able to get compensated for your injuries, if applicable, and for damage to your vehicle depends on whether the hit-and-run driver is caught and the types of auto insurance coverage you have. If the other driver is found, you can make a claim against their liability insurance. You can't make a claim on your own liability insurance if you were not at fault for the accident.
Collision and Uninsured Motorist Coverage
You should be able to get money from your carrier to pay for at least some of your expenses if you have certain insurance beyond basic liability. Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle no matter who is at fault, and uninsured motorist coverage should pay for your bodily injury and vehicle damage if the other motorist drives away and is, therefore, effectively uninsured. Regulations differ from state to state and you will need to have purchased both types (injury and damage) of uninsured coverage.
You generally must pay a deductible before your collision coverage kicks in. Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage usually doesn't require paying a deductible, but uninsured motorist vehicle damage coverage typically does.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
In some states, you may also purchase underinsured motorist insurance, which covers you in the event the limit of the at-fault driver's liability insurance isn't high enough to fully cover your losses.
FindLaw. "Leaving the Scene of an Accident/Hit and Run." Accessed May 2, 2020.
Nolo. "Consequences of a Hit and Run Accident." Accessed May 2, 2020.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Hit-and-Run Crashes: Prevalence, Contributing Factors and Countermeasures." Accessed May 2, 2020.
The Automobile Association. "What If You're Involved in a Hit and Run?" Accessed May 2, 2020.
Insurance Information Institute. "What to Do at the Scene of an Accident." Accessed May 2, 2020.
Allstate. "What to Do After a Car Accident: A Step-by-Step Guide." Accessed May 2, 2020.
HG.org. "I Was Involved in a Hit and Run Accident." Accessed May 2, 2020.
Allstate. "My Car Was Damaged in a Hit-and-Run. Am I Covered?" Accessed May 2, 2020.
Insurance Information Institute. "Protect Yourself Against Uninsured Motorists." Accessed May 2, 2020.