Roughly 11% of all accidents that are reported in the US have at least one driver that runs from the accident before authorities arrive. On top of that, a 2021 study found that roughly 1 in 8 drivers didn’t carry insurance. Commonly known as a "hit and run," these experiences can be dangerous, frustrating, and often leave drivers wondering what to do. In this article, we will look at some things to keep in mind if you are involved in a hit and run accident and what steps you should take to keep yourself safe and covered.
IMMEDIATE STEPS YOU SHOULD TAKE IF YOU'RE IN A HIT AND RUN ACCIDENT
STEP 1 - MAKE SURE EVERYONE'S OK
First and foremost, check that you and any passengers are okay and unhurt. Accidents can be jarring, confusing experiences, so remaining calm, collected, and ensuring there are no serious injuries should be your primary focus.
In the event of serious injury, swift action will be key. Dial 911 to report the accident, any injuries, and your location so help can be sent as quickly as possible.
STEP 2 - SAFELY PULL OVER
If your vehicle still operates and you can safely do so, pull out of the flow of traffic and park your vehicle somewhere safe like a shoulder or adjacent parking lot to wait for help to arrive.
STEP 3 - REPORT THE ACCIDENT
If you have not already, dial 911 and report the accident and your location while communicating to the dispatcher that there are no serious injuries.
STEP 4 - GATHER EVIDENCE
Once you have determined that everyone in your vehicle is OK and you have reported the accident, collect all of the information you can about the make, model, color, and specifics of the vehicle that fled the scene. This includes license plate number, driver description, and any unique identifiers the vehicle may have. If you do not have a pen to write things down while details are fresh in your mind, use a note-taking app on your phone or text yourself everything you can recall so that you will have all the details in a place they will not be forgotten.
If there were any witnesses to the hit and run accident, be sure to ask them what they saw, heard, or remember so that this evidence is sure to be captured as well.
STEP 5 - LOOK AROUND THE SCENE
Check the area in the vicinity of the accident to see if any security cameras may have captured the accident occurring and the other vehicle fleeing the scene. This type of evidence is irrefutable and could help authorities contact the other driver as well as bolster your case for reimbursement from your auto insurer.
NOTE: While many auto insurance providers do cover you in the event you're hit by a driver who flees the scene, it's recommended you review the fine print on your own insurance policy to understand when you are and are not covered. In most cases, the accident will be covered by your collision coverage. This coverage typically protects you and any drivers you may hit to help pay for repair to the vehicle. In some hit and run cases where the other driver is never identified, you may be expected to pay your collision deductible to repair your vehicle, even if the accident was not your fault.
STEP 6 - CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE PROVIDER
While you wait for help to arrive and if it is safe, you can contact your insurance provider to report the accident, discuss your coverage, and talk about next steps regarding repair to your vehicle.
WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN YOU'RE IN A HIT AND RUN ACCIDENT
While there are specific actions you should begin to take in the immediate aftermath of a hit and run accident, there are also plenty of things you should avoid doing that can exacerbate the situation or put yourself in greater danger.
DON’T LOSE YOUR TEMPER
While the situation may be infuriating, letting anger or frustration get the better of you is a surefire way to make a bad situation even worse. Stay calm, take deep breaths, and trust that the authorities and your insurance provider will do everything they can to help.
DON’T CHASE THE OTHER VEHICLE
This is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. First, you could be cited for leaving the scene of an accident as well! Secondly, chasing a fleeing driver could create a dangerous situation for other drivers, potential for another accident, or cause you to do something illegal. As tempting as it may be, do not do it. Let the other driver go and the authorities handle catching up with them.
DON’T ASSUME YOUR INSURANCE WILL COVER YOU
Take action to capture as much evidence and detail about the accident as possible. Your diligence in what you write down or gather will be your biggest ally when it comes time to having your auto insurance cover your vehicle repair.