Normally, if you have been in a car accident, you would stop and exchange insurance information with the other driver. Depending on the extent of the damage, you might call the police to come to the scene, or you might finish up with the other driver and report the accident later. If you've been in a fender bender or two, you're probably pretty familiar with this routine. But what happens if the other driver doesn't stop? A hit and run accident can be much more upsetting than a routine traffic accident, and you may be left wondering how to handle it. Here are some tips to help you out.
In the moments immediately following a hit and run accident, it's important to try to gather as much information as you can. Did you see the car that hit you? Write down as many details as you can remember. The car's make and model, the color of the car, and any license plate numbers you were able to see can all help you locate the hit and run driver. Even identifying marks like bumper stickers or window decals may be useful to remember.
This is also a good time to look around for any witnesses. It's always important to get the contact information of any witnesses to a car accident, but when you have been in a hit and run accident, it's even more important. Any bystanders may be able to help you identify the hit and run driver.
Before you move your car or arrange to have it towed, write down the time and location of the accident and take pictures of the accident scene, including the damage to your car. You should do this even if the police are on scene taking a report. Also, if the police are not called to the scene, you definitely need to file a report, and include all of the information that you have.
Report to Your Insurance Company
After you've gathered any information you need, filed a police report, and sought medical treatment for any injuries, you will need to report the accident to your insurance company. If you're not able to locate the driver, your insurance coverage may pay for the damage. In many states, your uninsured motorist coverage will pay for hit and run damage. However, in some states, the damages will be paid by your personal injury protection coverage, medical payments coverage, and collision coverage.
You may be hesitant to report your hit and run to your insurance company for fear that your insurance premiums will go up. This is a valid fear – in some cases, an insurance company will raise your rates after you've been the victim of a hit and run accident, usually if the claims adjuster can argue that you put yourself at risk in some way. However, you should still report the accident so that you can receive compensation for your damages. If your insurance company raises your rates after the fact, consider switching providers. Not all insurers view hit and run victims the same way, so you may be able to find a better rate elsewhere.
What to Expect If The Hit and Run Driver Is Identified
If the hit and run driver can be found, you'll be able to pursue that driver's insurance for damages. However, in many cases, hit and run drivers flee the scene because they're uninsured or they know that they're underinsured, so you should be prepared for that. In that case, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the individual driver in order to collect damages.
If you weren't injured in the accident, the claim will most likely end up being settled through insurance companies and the civil court system. However, fleeing the scene of the accident is a crime, and it's possible that the other driver will be charged criminally, especially if you sustained physical injuries in the accident. In that case, you may be called to testify against the driver in criminal court.
If you're having trouble collecting compensation from your insurance company, or the hit and run driver and their insurance company, contact a local auto accident attorney. A lawyer can help you collect compensation for your injuries and damages.