Being involved in a road accident of any kind is always stressful, but when the driver flees the scene — making it a hit-and-run — the whole ordeal becomes even worse.
In fact, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there were an estimated 737,100 hit-and-run crashes in 2015, which translates to a hit-and-run crash happening somewhere in the U.S. every 43 seconds.
As nerve-racking as the experience can be, knowledge about what to do next can go a long way in safeguarding yourself physically and financially. And so, here’s what you need to do if you become a victim of a hit-and-run crash where the driver hits you and speeds away.
Get Medical Assistance For Your Injuries
First and foremost, seek medical treatment if you get injured in any way. This could be using your first-aid kit (you have one in your vehicle, right?), from a nearby hospital or medical center, or if a doctor chances on the scene and is ready to help you out.
Not only is this essential for your overall well-being, but getting medical assistance is a crucial aspect of your personal injury claim. Doing so allows you to document your injuries and shows that you faced a serious ordeal. This is important for your personal injury lawyer to prove you deserve compensation.
Stay at the Scene and Call the Police
Once you treat your injuries, stay at the scene and call the police right away. Don’t try to chase or apprehend the culprit as this will likely worsen the situation. Besides, you are legally obliged to remain at the scene of the accident (and so is the culprit, for that matter, but alas).
Not contacting the police can lead to your insurance company dragging out the claims process or denying it altogether. Also, the sooner the police arrive on the scene, the sooner they can begin tracking down the driver.
While at the scene, try your best to note any details you can about the vehicle that hit you, such as its color, make and model, and license plate number (even if you only recall it partially). Anything you remember can help when you talk to the police and your insurance company.
In fact, try to…
Gather as Much Evidence as You Can
Apart from jotting down details, try to gather as much evidence as you can of the whole situation. Make a note of the time of the accident and the direction the culprit headed.
An accident of any kind usually attracts public attention. So once you’re safe, check around to see if there are any witnesses. Get their names and contact information, as it could help you reinforce your story to the police and insurance company. Don’t forget to check nearby shops for security camera footage or additional witnesses.
Next, snap photos of your damaged vehicle from multiple angles, including a full view of the vehicle and its close-ups, along with pictures of the area where the crash occurred. Make sure to take clear pictures of the paint transferred by the culprit’s vehicle, if any.
Contact Your Insurance Company
In a usual accident, the culprit’s insurance is typically liable to pay for the damage incurred by you. But unless you can identify the hit-and-run driver, you’ll have to go through your own insurance to receive compensation.
For a hit-and-run case, the damage is normally covered under the collision section of your insurance policy. But as collision coverage is optional, you may have opted out of this coverage. And if you don’t have collision coverage, you will have to pay for the repairs yourself.
So if you currently haven’t opted for collision protection, consider doing so now. If your claim is being paid out through your collision coverage, you’ll have to pay the deductible listed for that section of your policy.
Similarly, an uninsured motorist coverage can help to pay for injuries you (and your passengers) sustained if you are hit by a motorist who drives away, including medical costs, lost income, and intangible costs such as pain and suffering.
Note that all of these regulations vary from state to state, so be sure to check how things work in your state.
Stay Safe Out There
Whether it’s a minor dent or a major engine breakdown, you may not always have things go your way once the culprit zooms away from the scene.
That being said, if you follow the best practices outlined above, you stand a greater chance of coming out of this bad experience with minimal damage, both health-wise and financially.