What to do if Involved in a Hit-and-Run Car Accident
When first learning to drive, one of the first rules you probably learned, after making sure to always wear your seat belt was to never to leave the scene of an accident. Hit-and-run car accidents are a serious matter. Unfortunately, they occur every 43 seconds, and only 10% are solved cases. A hit-and-run, defined by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, is an accident where at least one person involved in a crash flees the scene before offering any (or sufficient) information or aid to the other involved person(s) or fails to report the collision properly. It could involve a pedestrian, another vehicle, or a fixed object.
Why Do People Leave the Scene of a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Hit-and-run drivers often flee the scene of an accident to evade responsibility, which can be a felony in some jurisdictions. When caught, drivers may face jail time and be required to pay compensation to the victim for any property damage or medical expenses incurred due to the accident. They can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the state’s laws and the severity of the accident. Some states have increased penalties for hit-and-runs involving fatalities or serious bodily injury. Penalties usually include fines, incarceration time, community service, and could include license suspension or revocation.
The top reasons why people leave the scene of a hit-and-run include:
- Not having a valid driver's license,
- Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs,
- Not having auto insurance to cover the expenses associated with their damages.
What to Do if Involved in a Hit-and-Run?
If you are ever involved in a hit-and-run accident, getting as much information about the driver who caused it is essential. Even if the hit-and-run driver cannot be identified, victims of hit-and-run accidents can still claim compensation from their insurance carrier.
- Safely pull your vehicle over to the side of the road as soon as possible.
- Assess the damage to your vehicle and what you hit.
- Take photos of any damage.
- Write down where the accident occurred, the damage sustained, and if you hit a car, the license plate, make, and model.
- See if you can find the owner. The owner may be nearby if you are at a store or other public place.
- If you can't find the owner, leave a note behind with your name, phone number, email address, and license plate number.
- File an accident report with the local authorities and your insurance agent.
It is imperative that the hit-and-run be reported to the police immediately so that a police report is prepared, and the incident is documented. This is especially essential if personal injuries result from the hit-and-run incident. If you fail to report the incident to the police, you may be ineligible to recover Uninsured/Underinsured coverage on your own policy of insurance. This coverage allows for compensation for personal injuries and damages resulting therefrom, including wage/income loss. Uninsured/Underinsured coverage is inexpensive and is the only way to protect you and your family from an uninsured event such as a hit-and-run or someone driving without insurance, or from a negligent driver who causes serious injuries and only has minimal coverage (in PA, minimum coverage is only $15,000 per person/$30,000 per incident.
By taking the necessary precautions and understanding your legal options, victims of hit-and-run accidents can take steps toward receiving the justice they deserve. Although this process may be complicated, the attorneys at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk, LLC can walk you through the process. With proper guidance, victims of hit-and-run accidents can pursue a legal claim and be compensated for their losses.