Being involved in a car crash is devastating enough. Even if you aren’t injured, you’re probably shaken up and wondering how to proceed. Is your vehicle damaged? Should you to go to the hospital even if you don’t think you’re seriously hurt? Worse, however, is the moment when you look up and realize that the driver of the other vehicle has disappeared. You’ve 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 doesn’t 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, it’s 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 anything—no matter what you hit, be it another car, a person, or a fixed object like a mailbox—do not leave the scene until you’ve taken appropriate steps. Any time your car is involved in a collision, it’s important you take steps to contact the authorities and/or those whose property you’ve 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 you’ve injured a person, call 911.
You are allowed to leave the scene of an accident in order to summon help. Suppose, for example, that you’re 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, it’s 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 You’re the Victim of a Hit-and-Run?
Following a hit-and-run in which you’re 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 you’ve been injured, or potentially injured, in a hit-and-run accident, take care of your physical well-being first.
Also, don’t 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 weren’t 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 driver’s 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 doesn’t 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
You’ll want to make sure there’s a police report about your hit-and-run accident. Summon the police to the scene. In many cases, they’ll 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, it’s important to have a lawyer on your side to ensure that you receive the compensation you’re 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, don’t stop documenting/ Your pictures of your injuries may be used to provide evidence later.
If you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident, it’s important you get the legal representation you need. If you were injured or your vehicle suffered significant damage in a hit-and-run accident, it’s 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