Hit and run accidents are taken seriously all around the country. The penalties for a hit and run driver are sharply increased, and if you work with a lawyer who specializes in hit and run accidents, you may be entitled to even more compensation than usual.
That said, the additional deterrents to dissuade drivers from fleeing the scene of an accident aren’t always enough to prevent hit and run crashes from occurring. At some point, you may find yourself the victim of an irresponsible driver who flees the scene and leaves you to deal with the fallout of the wreck.
If this happens to you, what are your options, and what should you do first?
Stay Calm and Don’t Pursue
First, try to stay calm. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you’re likely feeling a rush of adrenaline, which can strongly influence your emotions and spur you to take irrational or irresponsible actions. It may be challenging but try your best to remain calm. Take big, deep breaths, and focus on one thing at a time; it’s going to lead you to make safer, more responsible, ultimately better decisions for yourself and anyone with you in the car.
When you see the other vehicle flee or try to leave, your first instinct may be to follow them, typically out of anger or a sense of panic. But this is ill-advised. If you begin pursuing the other vehicle, there’s a good chance you or they could cause another accident, increasing the number of injuries from the incident—and possibly leaving you responsible for the damages. On top of that, there’s no guarantee you’re actually going to catch them, and if you do catch them, you may end up putting yourself in even more danger if this person is unpredictable.
Catch the Plates (or a Vehicle Description)
If the vehicle is leaving, you’ve likely only got a few seconds to try and remember as many details about the vehicle as possible. Make this your first priority and try to capture details with a camera if possible. Look at the license plate and remember whatever you can about it. If you can remember the full plate, that’s awesome—if not, remember a partial plate, along with the state where it’s from.
If you can’t see the plate, remember whatever details about the vehicle that you can. What is the make and model of the vehicle? What color is it? What kind of damage did it sustain in the accident? Does it have any identifying characteristics, like an odd bumper sticker or a missing hubcap? Did you catch who was driving? What did they look like?
Get Emergency Treatment and Call the Police
If you, a passenger, or anyone else in the accident was hurt, it’s important to contact emergency services and/or get treatment right away. Call 911 and explain the nature of the injuries. You’ll also want to call the police; filling out a police report is going to be an important early step if you want a chance at finding this driver and getting compensation for damages.
When the police arrive, explain everything you can in as much detail as you can remember. Answer all their questions honestly, completely, and fully. At some point, you’ll have an opportunity to review the report—so make sure all the details you provided are represented accurately on the report.
Look for Witnesses
It’s also a good idea to search the area briefly for witnesses. Were there any other drivers who pulled to the side of the road to help you? What about pedestrians passing by? These people may have caught additional details about the driver or the fleeing vehicle, and may be willing to help with the investigation in the future.
Otherwise, you may be able to collect evidence from security cameras installed nearby. Take note of your location, and ask around once you’ve begun to recover.
Talk to a Lawyer
Finally, make the time to talk to a lawyer about your accident—even if the police haven’t yet found the driver responsible for the accident. Your lawyer may have more resources or ideas for how to catch the person responsible, and if apprehended, they can help you win a case against the offending driver that can compensate you for all the damages you sustained—including for pain and suffering you experienced.
Hit and run accidents are thankfully rare, at least compared to the number of accidents where drivers stick around. However, they can be devastating if they happen to you. Do what you can to remain calm throughout the experience, and make logical decisions to protect yourself and the other people in your vehicle as a first priority.