A hit-and-run accident can leave victims traumatized, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do next. The sudden nature of these incidents, coupled with the fact that the at-fault party has fled the scene, make it hard to know where to begin when seeking justice and compensation. If someone injured you in a hit and run accident, you can pursue compensation. By taking the right steps with an experienced car accident lawyer at your side, you can pursue the justice you deserve for your injuries.
Prioritize SafetyThe first and most important step after any motor vehicle accident, including a hit and run, is to ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers. Move your vehicle to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so, turn on your hazard lights, and call for emergency assistance if anyone has suffered injuries. Do not chase after the fleeing vehicle, as this will only put you and others in further danger. Once you have moved to a safe location, assess the physical condition of all parties involved in the accident. Seek medical attention right away for any injuries, even minor ones, as the effects of the crash may not appear until later. Make the health and safety of you and your passengers your top priority before addressing the damage to your vehicle or thinking about a legal claim.
Call the PoliceAfter ensuring everyone's safety, immediately call 911 to report the hit-and-run accident to the police. Provide the dispatcher with as much detail as possible about the accident, including the location, time, description of any injuries, and any details you obtained about the other vehicle involved. When the police arrive at the scene, report the incident to them and obtain an official police report. Provide thorough and accurate information to the police, as you need it for your insurance claim and personal injury lawsuit. Ask the responding officers about their next steps in locating the at-fault driver. While finding and identifying the other party is not always possible, the police may uncover details to strengthen your case.
Gather EvidenceAfter the police arrive and take your statement, collect as much evidence as possible from the accident scene. Take photographs of the damage to your vehicle, any injuries you or your passengers sustained, the position of the vehicles involved, skid marks on the road, and any other details that could be relevant to your claim. Obtain contact information for any witnesses to the hit and run and request written statements from them. The police should collect statements and contact information from witnesses and include them in the police report for use in your claim. Record any details of the fleeing vehicle you were able to obtain, such as the make, model, color, license plate number, or any other distinguishing features. The more evidence and information you can gather regarding the circumstances of the incident and the at-fault vehicle, the stronger your case will be when seeking compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Seek Medical AttentionEven if you believe your injuries to be minor after a car accident, seeking prompt medical evaluation and treatment is critical. Adrenaline and shock often mask the severity of injuries immediately following a crash. Have a doctor examine you for a proper diagnosis and document any conditions that arose from the incident. Inform the doctor you were involved in a hit-and-run accident so they can check for internal injuries that may not be apparent. Some injuries, such as those to the brain and spinal cord, can often take time to identify or for symptoms to appear. In addition to ensuring your physical health, your medical records and bills will serve as important evidence for your compensation claim, so keep records of all treatment related to the accident and relay that information to your attorney. Seeking timely medical care will ensure your health and facilitate an optimal recovery from injuries. Delaying treatment can be dangerous and jeopardize your well-being and ability to recover damages. Not seeking medical treatment immediately following the accident can raise doubts about the seriousness of your injuries. The insurer will use any delay in treatment or deviation from your treatment plan to claim that your injuries weren't as severe as you claim and reduce or deny your claim entirely.
Notify Your Insurance CompanyPrioritize having your lawyer notify your auto insurance provider immediately after a hit-and-run accident. Your insurance company will open a claim, inform you of the coverage and benefits available under your specific policy, and begin an investigation into the incident. Provide the company with the details of the crash, including any evidence or information you have about the other vehicle involved. Cooperate fully with your insurance company's requests and investigations. Although you were not at fault for the accident, your insurance provider may still be responsible for some of the costs, such as medical bills or vehicle repairs, depending on your coverage and state laws. If you carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, your insurer should cover your initial medical expenses and lost income up to the policy limit. You should access your PIP coverage before proceeding to claims against other policies you hold. Your insurer can also offer guidance on the next steps in the claims process and pursue legal action against the other party on your behalf if identified. Reporting the accident quickly is important to avoid denial of your claim and ensure that you meet all deadlines. Remember that your insurer is still a business and will lose profit by paying out your claim, meaning it may try to reduce the compensation you can recover. Consult with an attorney to ensure that your insurance company reviews your claim fairly.
Report the Accident to the Department of Motor VehiclesIn some jurisdictions, you may need to report a hit-and-run accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Reporting the incident to the DMV helps create an official record and may assist in identifying the responsible party. Review the local laws and regulations to determine if this step is required in your jurisdiction. Your personal injury lawyer can guide you on the specific requirements and help you navigate the DMV reporting process.
Document ExpensesThoroughly document all expenses related to the hit-and-run accident. Keep records of medical bills, vehicle repair costs, towing expenses, rental car costs, lost income from missed work, and any other out-of-pocket costs you incur. These documented losses will be important for negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance company and strengthening a personal injury claim. As mentioned, take photos of any property damage and injuries to support your claimed losses. Regarding your noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, keep a journal or written record of how the accident and injuries have impacted your mobility, daily activities, and quality of life. These details help demonstrate the full effects of the incident after you recover from the initial injuries. Staying on top of documenting expenses and other impacts from the beginning will make valuing your claim and pursuing recovery easier.
File a ClaimOnce you have taken all the necessary steps following a hit-and-run accident and obtained counsel from a personal injury attorney, it is time to formally file claims to pursue compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. You may explore several avenues for filing a claim after a hit and run, including:
- Filing a claim with your own auto insurance company: If the other driver remains unidentified or uninsured, your policy coverage should cover some of the losses. Policies a victim may be able to access include PIP, collision coverage, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Your insurance company will investigate the claim and compensate you based on the terms of your policy.
- Filing a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance: If the responsible party is located, you can file a claim against their auto insurance policy to pursue settlement of your damages. Your personal injury attorney will handle the claims process on your behalf and negotiate for a fair offer with the insurance company.
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit: As a last resort, you may need to file a lawsuit against the driver that caused the accident (if identified) to obtain sufficient compensation, especially if the insurance claim process does not yield an acceptable settlement offer. You may also need to file a lawsuit against your own insurer if the company refuses to offer a fair settlement based on your insurance coverage. Your attorney can represent you and argue your case before a judge and jury.