UNITED STATES—If you have been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you are not alone. Around 11% of reported car accidents are hit and runs. Law enforcement, insurance agents, and attorneys have seen it all before, and there are experienced professionals who may be able to help you. Your options are fairly limited by not knowing whose vehicle collided with you, but you are not out of moves yet.
Check Your State Laws
Many states have their own additions or twists on laws, and personal injury or car accident laws are no different. In about a dozen states, car insurance functions completely differently than most, with a “no-fault” system. If you have no-fault insurance, then your injuries will generally be covered even if you can not find the other driver. Unfortunately, this does not typically extend to vehicle repair costs, but it is a good start.
Most states have the standard fault-based system for car insurance where the at-fault party is financially responsible for the impact of the accident. A fault-based insurance system means your options are more limited.
File an Insurance Claim
If you are able to, start the process for an insurance claim as soon as possible. Speak with your insurance agent and review your options. You may be surprised by a clause or feature of your insurance plan, and it is best to get all the cards on the table.
Even under a fault-based system, some insurance plans offer coverage for accidents for which you are not liable. If you frequently drive in an area with a high risk of accidents, a premium plan with this coverage might be a prudent investment. Then, even if you are a victim of a hit and run accident, you won’t be left with a hefty bill.
Find the Driver
In most hit-and-run cases, the identity of the other driver is a total mystery. Remember to record any details you gathered or remembered while they are fresh. Information like the license plate number, make, and model of the car or a description of the driver can go a long way.
If you were not in your vehicle at the time of the accident, there might be other clues available. Nearby security cameras would be the jackpot, but even paint stuck to the damage can help. Make sure to talk to any potential witnesses as well. Their testimony can help you find the driver and build your case once you have found the culprit.
The ugly truth of the matter is that many hit-and-run drivers are not in a position to take financial responsibility for the accident. Common reasons for fleeing the scene of an accident include being uninsured, unlicensed, and driving an unregistered vehicle. All of these are ominous signs for getting a settlement or damages from a trial.
It is common knowledge that leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal act. One strong motivation that makes drivers willing to commit a crime is the presence of other crimes. Some hit-and-run drivers are under driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol when their accident occurs. This condition is another reason you should never try to follow or restrain someone fleeing the scene of an accident.
Hit-and-run drivers may also be fleeing the scene of another crime or engaged in a crime at the same time as the accident, like transporting contraband or carrying an unlicensed firearm. The stakes are much higher for a criminal than you who simply want your repair and medical bills paid.
Get More Allies
If you run into a dead-end with your insurance provider, witnesses, and the law, you should expand your team to include an attorney. Many personal injury attorneys specialize in auto accidents and have extensive experience with hit-and-run accidents.
Involving legal counsel early in the process can also help when issuing statements to law enforcement. If you do find the driver, you will want to have all your bases covered for a settlement or potential trial.
Cheryl Roy has built a successful legal career over the years. However, she wanted to reach out to people beyond her practice and decided to do so by writing. Cheryl took it as a personal mission to make legal information more accessible to the public. Therefore, she started sharing her expertise with individuals and businesses facing a legal dilemma. Now she has branched out to many online and offline platforms and works as a collaborative editor for Bader Scott Injury Lawyers.