It's always stressful when you get into a car collision. It's even worse if the driver of the other vehicle leaves the scene, making it a hit-and-run. Here's what you should do if you get into a crash and the other driver doesn't stick around.
- Fleeing the scene of a car accident could lead to penalties including fines and prison time.
- Stay on the scene, check everyone for injuries, and call the police.
- Do not be tempted to chase after the other driver to catch up with or detain them.
- The insurance money you may receive will depend on whether the police can locate the other driver and the type of insurance you each carry.
What the Law Says About a Hit-and-Run
First, here's a look at what a hit-and-run driver should do after an accident. Then we'll consider the possible fallout for leaving the scene.
In most states, drivers in an accident with another vehicle are legally required to move quickly to a safe spot and then park. That's if the vehicle is not too broken. Next, you should check on the health and safety of any victims in the other vehicles or in the vicinity. If anyone needs medical attention, call for emergency help right away.
Consequences of Leaving the Scene
The legal fallout of leaving the scene of an accident varies by state. It depends on whether anyone died or suffered a serious injury. Penalties could include a suspended driver's license, a fine of up to $20,000, and a prison term of up to 15 years.
Stay at the Scene and Call the Police
The victim is also liable by law for staying at the scene of an accident. Do not be tempted to chase after the other driver to catch up with or detain them. It's very dangerous and the outcome is unpredictable. It could make a bad situation worse.
Call the police as soon as you can because an accident report will be crucial. You need it for your insurance claim and to locate the hit-and-run driver. The sooner the police are aware of the accident, the sooner they can begin tracking down the driver. Their chances are better if that person is still in the area.
Hit-and-run accidents represent about 13% of all car crashes, reports the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Get Notes, Photos, and Witnesses
Prepare to be able to give as much information as possible to the police. Take notes of what happened. Snap photos 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, describe the vehicle—and the driver—in as much detail as possible. If you didn't see anything, don't make it up.
Details that can help the police are the make, model, and color of the vehicle. Think about unique details such as a bumper sticker. You can also suggest where the other driver's vehicle might be damaged based on the nature of the crash.
Make a note of the time of the accident and the direction the other vehicle was headed in when you could last see them.
If anyone witnessed 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. Also, ask 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 right away about the accident—and its hit-and-run nature. They can begin processing your claim.
Get Medical Assistance
Get checked out at the scene by medical professionals—even if you aren't sure you were hurt. If the other driver is found, you have a better legal case. Medical records can link the accident and your injuries.
Obtain the Police Report
After you and any witnesses speak with the police, ask the officer when the report will be ready. Take down the names and badge numbers of all officers at the scene. It will make it easier to get the report once it's complete.
Hit-and-Run Insurance Coverage
Whether or not you can get compensation and for what depends on the type of 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.
Even if it seems unfair, filing a claim for a hit-and-run accident may raise the cost of your car insurance premiums.
Collision and Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle no matter who is at fault. Uninsured motorist coverage should pay for your bodily injury and vehicle damage if the other motorist drives away never to be found. Laws differ from state to state. You will need to have both types of coverage to be paid for everything.
It's common to pay a deductible before your collision coverage kicks in. Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage won't often have a deductible. Uninsured motorist vehicle damage coverage often does.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
In some states, you may also purchase underinsured motorist insurance. This covers you in the event the limit of the at-fault driver's liability insurance isn't high enough to fully cover your losses.