What Do I Do After a Hit and Run Accident?

May 13, 2024 | Jarrett Blakeley
What Do I Do After a Hit and Run Accident?

When you get into a car accident, you will stop and exchange information with the other driver involved in the crash and then file an insurance claim to get compensation. This algorithm makes perfect sense and is quite straightforward. However, what if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident in which the other driver leaves the scene before you can exchange information or even identify them?

Unfortunately, crashes where a driver flees the scene are not uncommon in the United States, as studies report that a hit-and-run accident occurs every 43 seconds. When this happens to you, you likely do not know what to do after a hit-and-run accident and should always seek the assistance of a car accident lawyer.

What Is a Hit-and-Run Accident?

Hit and Run Accident

Imagine that you are stopped at a red light, and – out of nowhere – a vehicle crashes into you, leaving a trail of shattered glass, a dent in your car, and a flurry of emotions in its wake. You gather your wits, but the shock of what just happened is magnified by the fact that the other driver has fled the scene. You have just been in what is known as a “hit-and-run accident.”

However, there are several scenarios in which someone who causes an accident may flee the scene without providing any identification or aid to the victims. Some of the most common hit-and-run scenarios include:

  • Someone hits your parked car. It is perhaps one of the most frustrating hit-and-run situations. You park your car only to return and find it damaged, with the person responsible nowhere in sight. This situation can occur in parking lots, on the street, or even in driveways. Evidence can sometimes be limited, making it challenging to track down the person responsible.
  • Someone hits your moving car and drives away. Unlike the scenario mentioned above, this one happens while you are driving. Another vehicle might collide with yours—whether from the side, rear, or front—and then speed away from the scene. Such incidents can be dangerous and disorienting and leave you little time to react or capture details about the offending vehicle.
  • Someone runs you off the road and leaves the scene. In this case, another vehicle forces you off the road by swerving into your lane or driving aggressively, causing you to crash or stop abruptly to avoid collision. The aggressor does not stop to offer help or exchange information and drives away, leaving you to deal with any potential harm or damage.

In any of these situations, consult a car accident attorney immediately.

Step-by-Step Guide After a Hit-and-Run Accident

We have prepared a detailed step-by-step guide for three common hit-and-run scenarios to help you in these challenging times.

1. What to Do if Someone Hits Your Parked Car

Imagine walking out of a store to find somebody has damaged your car and driven off without leaving a note. This distressing situation is more common than you may think. Here’s how to handle it:

  • Assess the damage and gather clues. Survey the scene and document the damage. It includes taking photographs and looking for any paint transfer, broken parts, or debris that can serve as evidence. Speak with any witnesses or the owners of nearby businesses who might have seen the accident or caught it on camera.
  • Report to the authorities and your insurance. Call the police to file a report. Provide as much detail as possible about the incident and any possible leads. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. The more prompt you are, the faster they can start the claims process and assist with any repairs.
  • Investigate and follow up. Return to the scene at different times to see if the responsible party returns or if other potential witnesses might be around. Contact local body shops and ask them to watch for a vehicle matching the description of the one that hit you. Hiring a car accident attorney during this step may increase your chances of finding the driver who left the scene.

The crucial takeaway is not to view a hit-and-run accident involving a parked car as a lost cause. Determination can sometimes lead to resolution, whether through personal investigation or working with a car accident attorney.

2. What to Do if Someone Hits Your Moving Car and Drives Away

When you are on the road, and another driver hits you, the initial shock is often compounded by the offender driving off. The following steps will help you manage this scenario:

  • Immediate response. If possible, make a quick note of the vehicle’s make, model, and color, along with the license plate. If you can, pull over to a safe location and call the police. Be prepared to give a detailed report of the accident.
  • Turn to social media and community support. Timely social media posts can lead to unexpected witnesses coming forward or even the driver turning themselves in. Dashcam and traffic camera footage can be invaluable. Ensure to request it from the authorities and use it to identify the fleeing vehicle. 
  • Explore your options for compensation. If the hit-and-run driver is identified, file a claim with their insurance. If not, you can obtain compensation through your insurance provider (read more about the compensation options below). Consider seeking legal counsel to help you with the claims process.

Swift action is the key to navigating a hit-and-run accident involving a moving vehicle. The more details and evidence you can amass, the more likely you are to either track down the perpetrator or receive the financial compensation you deserve.

3. What to Do if Someone Runs You Off the Road and Leaves the Scene? 

In a scenario where another driver’s recklessness leads to a hit-and-run, maintaining composure and prioritizing safety can be especially critical. Take the following steps if the other driver ran you off the road and left the scene:

  • Get to safety. Your immediate concern should be your safety and that of any passengers. If medical attention is needed, dial emergency services first.
  • Remember the details. Try to recall distinguishing features of the vehicle and the driver, such as the direction they fled and any noticeable behavior before, during, or after the collision.
  • Report the crash to the authorities and start building a case. When contacting the police, provide a detailed account of the events, noting any threats or hostile actions by the other driver that might indicate intent to flee the scene. Gather as much information from nearby drivers or pedestrians who might have seen what happened and are willing to give a statement.

Navigating through the emotional and legal aftermath of a hit-and-run accident can be daunting. Keeping calm and working with a car accident lawyer will bolster your position when settling legal or insurance disputes.

The Don’ts After a Hit-and-Run Accident

Someone Hits a Parked Car and Flee the Scene

Getting into a car accident and seeing the other driver flee the scene can be a disorienting and anxiety-inducing experience. While we have already discussed what steps you should take if you have been involved in a hit-and-run accident, it is equally important to understand what you should not do if the driver who caused the crash is nowhere to be found.

DON’T lose your temper

It is only natural to feel a surge of anger following a hit-and-run. However, displaying aggressive behavior can only escalate a potentially volatile situation. Instead, take a deep breath and focus on your safety and the safety of others involved. Keep your cool and focus on gathering information that may help identify the fleeing driver.

DON’T follow the fleeing driver

Chasing after a hit-and-run offender is dangerous and can lead to more problems. Pursuing someone already engaged in reckless or illegal behavior can put you at risk of further injury or involvement in traffic accidents. Also, leaving the scene of the accident makes you a driver who flees and violates the law. For example, all motorists in a crash must stop immediately in Florida.

Remember, safety first. Instead of following the driver, try to note down any identifying details about the vehicle and the direction in which it fled. This information can be crucial for law enforcement to locate the responsible party.

DON’T ignore the importance of medical attention

Even if you feel fine immediately after the collision, you may still want to seek medical attention. You know what they say – “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Adrenaline can mask the symptoms of serious injuries, and some conditions may not present themselves until hours or days later. If left untreated, injuries can have long-term health implications and complicate any legal claims you intend to make.

If you don’t document your injury and your insurance company denies your claim because of the lack of evidence to link the injury to the hit-and-run accident, you can be left responsible for paying the medical bills out of pocket. This can be quite burdensome, considering the average cost of an evident injury resulting from a car accident can be tens of thousands of dollars.

DON’T wait to call the police or your insurance company

Promptly notifying the authorities and your insurance provider is crucial after a hit-and-run. The police report filed after the incident serves as vital evidence in any subsequent legal claims or criminal proceedings. Delaying this can weaken your case and hinder the investigation.

Similarly, notifying your insurance company within a reasonable amount of time allows you to begin the claims process faster. The earlier you report, the sooner you can start the process of receiving compensation for damages and injuries.

DON’T expect your insurance company to be on your side

While being insured can bring a degree of comfort, you need to remember that insurance companies are businesses looking to minimize their payouts. In the case of a hit-and-run, the insurance company’s interests may not fully align with your own.

Be cautious about the information you provide to insurance adjusters, and do not sign any settlement offers without consulting with a car accident lawyer first. Understanding your policy coverage and available options is vital, as insurance companies may attempt to offer less than what you are entitled to under your policy.

DON’T admit fault

After an accident, especially one as traumatic as a hit-and-run, you may question whether anything you did led to the collision. However, refrain from admitting any level of fault to anyone, including other drivers and bystanders.

Even if you are unsure about the cause of the accident, do not make statements that can be construed as an admission of guilt. Fault in a hit-and-run is a complex determination and should be left to the investigation and legal process.

DON’T rely solely on your memory

Memory can be tricky, especially in high-stress situations. Details of the accident can become distorted or forgotten over time. To the best of your ability, write down everything you remember immediately after the accident, including the time, location, road conditions, and any relevant events.

Take pictures or videos of the scene and the damage to your vehicle. This documentation can be a powerful aid in the police investigation and your insurance claim.

Navigating the legal system after a hit-and-run is complex. There are various rules and regulations to understand, deadlines to adhere to, and paperwork to file. A qualified car accident lawyer can guide you through the process, protect your rights, and represent you in dealings with insurance companies and the legal system.

Does Auto Insurance Cover Hit-and-Run Accidents?

Understanding whether auto insurance covers hit-and-run accidents is not just about prevention or legal recourse. It’s also about easing your financial and emotional burdens in the aftermath. Below are some types of coverage that may be available to cover your expenses, damages, and losses:

  • Collision coverage. When it comes to hit-and-run cases, collision coverage is usually your first line of defense. This coverage is part of your overall auto insurance policy that pays for damages to your car resulting from various incidents, including collisions with other vehicles or objects. If you are a hit-and-run victim, this coverage can help you get your vehicle repaired without paying for everything out of pocket.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage. Some of your damages and losses can be covered if you carry uninsured motorist coverage. This policy kicks in when the responsible driver is either uninsured or unidentifiable. And since the driver who flees the scene of an accident is often considered to be uninsured in the eyes of the law, you can tap into that coverage after a hit-and-run accident. However, it is worth noting that uninsured motorist coverage is optional in most states, which is why many drivers may not have this coverage as part of their auto insurance.
  • Medical payments (MedPay) coverage. Unlike liability coverage, MedPay is no-fault insurance, meaning you can claim medical expenses regardless of who’s to blame. The convenience and peace of mind this brings in hit-and-run cases cannot be overstated.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Personal Injury Protection (PIP), mandatory in no-fault states like Florida, is similar to MedPay but extends the coverage to include a wider range of services such as rehabilitation, lost earnings, and funeral expenses. In Florida, vehicles with the state’s registration must have a minimum of $10,000 in PIP coverage.

Will your auto insurance provide some reprieve if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident? It depends on your policy and the coverage available to you. Sometimes, scheduling a consultation with a personal injury lawyer to understand your compensation options is much easier (and faster) than reading through the dozens or hundreds of pages written in complex legalese.

Jarrett Blakeley

Firm founder Jarrett Blakeley fights to get maximum compensation for all of Blakeley Law Firm’s clients. He has been practicing law since 2006 and takes great pride in representing the rights of injured individuals against the insurance companies and the law firms that represent them. He has successfully represented thousands of clients and recovered tens of millions of dollars on their behalf. Mr. Blakeley strives to give all of his clients personal attention and maximum effort and seeks to instill a firm culture that prioritizes customer service and compassion for the injured over all else. Fighting for the injured is Jarrett Blakeley’s greatest passion and he looks forward to fighting for the injured for the rest of his career.

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