What Does the Law Consider a Hit-and-Run?

Being involved in a car crash is devastating enough. Even if you arent injured, youre probably shaken up and wondering how to proceed. Is your vehicle damaged? Should you to go to the hospital even if you dont think youre seriously hurt? Worse, however, is the moment when you look up and realize that the driver of the other vehicle has disappeared. Youve been the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

What is a Hit-and-Run Accident?

A hit-and-run is defined as leaving the scene of an accident without waiting for the proper authorities. In most states, there are several important rules to keep in mind with regard to hit-and-run statutes:

It doesnt matter if you were the one at fault or not. Leaving the scene of the accident is considered to be a hit-and-run no matter who was at fault for the accident, and may incur serious legal penalties regardless of whether or not you were the one initially at fault for the accident. For this reason, its important to stay at the accident until police arrive.

Failure to provide appropriate contact information can be considered a hit-and-run. If, for example, you hit a car in the parking lot and choose to leave without providing your contact information and insurance information to the other driver, this can be considered a hit-and-run accident.

If you hit anythingno matter what you hit, be it another car, a person, or a fixed object like a mailboxdo not leave the scene until youve taken appropriate steps. Any time your car is involved in a collision, its important you take steps to contact the authorities and/or those whose property youve damaged. In the case of a mailbox, this would mean contacting the owner. If you hit a light pole, a sign, or another item belonging to the city, summoning the police is the most effective way to be sure that the accident is properly documented. And, obviously, if youve injured a person, call 911.

You are allowed to leave the scene of an accident in order to summon help. Suppose, for example, that youre driving down a winding mountain road, or you’re stuck in a valley where you have no cell phone signal. If you need to leave the scene of the accident to summon the authorities or an ambulance, its legally acceptable to leave the scene. In this case, however, you must return immediately to the scene of the accident after summoning help.

What Should You Do If Youre the Victim of a Hit-and-Run?

Following a hit-and-run in which youre the victim, try to stay calm. There are several key steps that you can take now that may be important for protecting your rights down the road. Read through these steps carefully, twice. Having them in the back of your mind after a hit-and-run accident can help you make good decisions during a moment of extremely high stress.

Step One: Seek Medical Attention and Stay Where You Are.

Nothing is more important than your health. If youve been injured, or potentially injured, in a hit-and-run accident, take care of your physical well-being first.

Also, dont attempt to pursue the other driver as they leave the scene of the accident. In spite of the frustration that goes along with being a victim of a hit-and-run, staying at the scene is critical. It helps establish that you werent the one at fault for the accident and ensures that you are able to summon the police quickly, enabling them to catch the other driver and establish your innocence. Remaining at the scene can also help you acquire important witness statements, which may be critical later in proving fault. Pursuing the hit-and-run drivers could also risk making your injuries worse.

Step Two: Collect Evidence if You Are Able

Again, medical attention should be your first priority. But, if you are able, take the opportunity to gather potentially critical information. Are there witnesses to the event? If so, collecting their statements is one of the most important ways to identify the driver later. If possible, note the make and model of the car that hit you. Capture a picture, if you happen to have your phone or camera close at hand.

Did you get a look at the hit-and-run drivers license plate? Even a partial plate can make it easier to identify the driver later. You should also take note of which direction the vehicle was traveling as the driver fled the scene, since this can make it easier to find them.

In parking lots and on many streets, cameras can help provide critical evidence that will make it easier to identify the other driver. That doesnt mean, however, that you should assume they will be helpful. Your efforts to gather other, immediate evidence can help make up for lapses in camera coverage and other problems.

Step Three: Summon the Police

Youll want to make sure theres a police report about your hit-and-run accident. Summon the police to the scene. In many cases, theyll be in the best position to identify the driver who was at fault and make sure the driver faces legal repercussions.

Step Four: Contact a Lawyer

In some cases, people who have attempted to report a hit-and-run have been accused of fraud by their insurance companies or by others in the aftermath of the accident. In others, it may be difficult to identify the individual who was at fault for the accident and convince their insurance company to pay for necessary damages, if applicable. As a result, its important to have a lawyer on your side to ensure that you receive the compensation youre due.

Step Five: Keep Documenting

If you were injured during the hit-and-run, you should have documentation of your injuries, including your visit to urgent care or the emergency room and pictures of your immediate injuries. After you head home, dont stop documenting/ Your pictures of your injuries may be used to provide evidence later.

If youve been involved in a hit-and-run accident, its important you get the legal representation you need. If you were injured or your vehicle suffered significant damage in a hit-and-run accident, its even more important that you have an experienced legal team on your side. Contact us today at (727) 853-6275 to set up your free consultation or to learn more about how we may be able to help.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652