If being involved in an accident where you and the other party exchange insurance information is stressful, imagine being involved in a hit and run accident? This is twice as stressful since you are not only left with injuries, but you also must handle the financial impact that the accident leaves you in and the events that follow – such as initiating the claim process. While there is no denying the situation is incredibly stressful, knowing what to do after a hit and run happens could make a big difference. It is for this reason that we outlined all the steps that you need to take immediately after you are involved in such an accident.
What is a hit and run accident?
When most people hear of hit and run, they immediately think of an accident where a motorist hits a pedestrian and flees. However, while there is a bit of truth there, it is vital to note that hit and runs refer to any accident in which a person intentionally flees the scene without providing their contact or insurance info, or without stopping to help out. Note, it is still a hit and run even if the driver who flees wasn’t the one at fault.
What triggers a hit and run?
When involved in such an accident, it is easy to wonder why the driver ran away instead of helping you out. Well apart from selfishness and the fear of being caught, most drivers often flee because they
- Were driving under the influence hence if caught they will be charged criminally
- Have no insurance
- Have no license, or it was suspended
- Are in possession of illegal or stolen property or drugs
- Are illegal immigrants
- The car is not theirs, or they may have stolen it
- Were driving a company car and stopping might put them in trouble with their employers
- Have outstanding warrant arrests
- Already have multiple traffic offense tickets
Whatever the reason, it is a criminal offense for a driver to flee the scene of the accident. Therefore, if you are involved in a hit and run, here is what you should do.
What to do after a hit and run accident
Call 911 and collect as much info as possible
When you are involved in a hit and run accident, try to remain as calm as you can. If anyone in your vehicle or even you were injured, call 911 immediately. Also, if you think you and everyone in your car is okay ensure you get a checkup done later as you may have suffered internal injuries and you may not know. Also, call the police so they can try and catch the fleeing driver.
If you are in a position in which to do so, collect as much available information you can about the car that hit you. If the other driver sped off before you could exchange information, write down the license plate, the model and the color of their car. This will give the police an upper hand in locating the hit and run driver. If you were in the middle of the road, pull over so you can be out of harm’s way and at the same time avoid blocking other motorists. If they speed off before you can identify anything, try and see if there are security cameras on that road. If someone hits your car while it’s in a parking lot, try to find out if there was any witness or if there are security cameras. Take pictures of any damages and the accident scene.
Look for witnesses
If the accident happens in a busy parking lot, slow-moving traffic where there are a lot of people or within a neighborhood street, look for anyone who may have witnessed what happened. Witnesses have a better chance of seeing the fleeing driver than you do. Most of them even take the initiative of writing down the license plate for you. Therefore, if you were within an area with a lot of people, ask around for possible witnesses and make a note of their contact information as this information could make it much easier in identifying the fleeing driver and bringing them to justice.
Call your insurance company
The next step to take when involved in a hit and run accident is to notify your automobile insurance company as soon as you can. Make sure to provide your insurer with as many details as you can, so they can begin processing your claim as quickly as possible. However, the claims process will be handled differently because a fleeing driver is involved who has yet to be identified. If the fleeing driver cannot be found and no insurance is available from that fleeing vehicle to cover your losses, you may need to make a claim against your own underinsured or uninsured automobile insurance policy in order to recover those losses. As far as property damage, most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of property damage insurance but for your insurer to cover you for a hit and run you need to have purchased collision coverage. This means that if you had only paid for state-required coverage, you may end up paying for your own repairs, damages and medical costs out of pocket. It is vital you understand what coverage you have purchased as part of your insurance policy.
Will the hit and run affect your premium?
As long as you notify the police and your insurer, then a hit and run accident should not affect your premium. This is usually considered a not-at-fault loss; hence you don’t need to worry about the cost of your insurance going up.
Seek legal help
If the damages resulting from the crash are severe, it is advisable that you seek legal advice. This is especially important if you incurred injuries from the incident. An experienced attorney will advise and inform you of all the available legal options. Also, most people who don’t make claims as part of their everyday life find the uninsured and underinsured claims process difficult and confusing. An experienced attorney can help set the record the straight by explaining everything you need to know. In a nutshell, an experienced attorney will work in your best interest, so you can get maximum compensation after the incident.
How to protect yourself in a hit and run
It is essential that you have the correct car insurance coverage to protect yourself. Immediately review your car insurance policy to make sure that you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This is the only type of insurance that will protect you and anyone else in your car if injuries are sustained as a result of a hit and run crash. If you do not have this coverage, you must immediately contact your car insurance company and purchase this coverage. It is imperative that you purchase as much of this coverage as you can afford. If you do not have this coverage, you are essentially driving without insurance coverage that would protect you and your family.