Car accidents are always jarring, even when the driver who hits you sticks around to exchange contact information. However, when another driver strikes your car then flees the scene, what can you do to protect yourself and get the justice you deserve? And if you do catch the driver, what charges will he or she face?
Read on to learn more about what you can do right after a hit-and-run accident and how the legal system will deal with the offending driver.
What You Should Do After a Hit-and-Run
Hit-and-runs involving two cars generally happen one of two ways:
A vehicle strikes another vehicle on the street or while both move through a parking lot.
A vehicle strikes a parked car.
In the first situation, the other driver will likely try to drive off as quickly as possible so you can't catch their license plate number.In the second scenario, the offending driver will not leave their contact information on your car so you can collect damages.
Regardless of which situation your hit-and-run happens in, you should do the following four things.
1. Stay Calm
Even if your car got hit in a parking lot when you weren't there, crashes of any kind can cause an adrenaline rush and a startling surge of fear, anger, or both. Resist the urge to shut down or panic. If someone hit you on the road, do not try to chase after the other driver. Channel all your energy into what you need to do next and you'll have an easier time down the line.
2. Call the Police
If you sustained injuries in the crash, you'll need to call the police to both make a report and summon emergency medical personnel.
If you think you have an injury, try not to move. Don't leave your car unless you think you're in danger of a secondary accident.
If you can't call the police yourself, find a witness or another driver who stops to help and ask him or her to make the call for you.
If you don't have any apparent injuries, move your car out of traffic if you can and call 9-1-1. Even if the police can't collect information from the other driver, an officer can help you gather evidence and interview witnesses. It could also help you later to have a police report on file.
3. Gather Evidence
As soon you have the police on their way, start writing down everything you can remember about the car that hit you. If you know the color, the make, the model, or even better, the license plate number, write them down immediately so you don't forget.
If someone hit your parked car, you probably didn't see the offending car yourself. However, many parking lots use video surveillance. If you know what company owns the parking lot, call them and ask if they can pull the footage for you. If the lot doesn't have an obvious owner, look for signs near the security cameras to see if they include a phone number.
You should also take pictures of the scene of the crash and write down what time it happened. Don't forget to take pictures of your car as well-especially if your car contains evidence against the other driver, such as paint streaks.
4. File an Insurance Claim
Call your insurance company to file a claim and get an adjuster on the scene. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, this will likely cover the damage to your car and/or yourself. Other types of hit-and-run insurance coverage include:
Personal injury protection
Medical payments coverage
Enlist an Attorney
After you call your insurance company, find a good car accident attorney. A lawyer can help if your insurance company refuses to cover your claim, and he or she can also represent you in your overall hit-and-run case.
What Happens to the Liable Driver After a Hit-and-Run
If someone causes a car accident, leaving the scene without exchanging contact information or calling the police counts as a crime. When the driver who hit you gets caught, he or she will face one of two main charges.
If your accident was minor and you didn't sustain any injuries (such as if a driver hits your parked car when you're not there),the offending driver will face misdemeanor charges. This usually means a big fine and sometimes a short time in jail.
If the other driver left the scene of the accident and you or someone else was seriously injured, he or she will face far bigger consequences. The driver will have to pay a fine of up to ten times as much as a misdemeanor and will likely serve jail time as well.
After a hit-and-run accident, you must do everything you can to collect evidence and locate the at-fault driver. Enlist the police, your insurance company, and a car accident attorney to help you find the perpetrator and recover the damages you deserve.