During my forty-year-plus career as a personal injury attorney, I’ve counseled thousands of seriously injured men and women after auto collisions. An unfortunate truth is that far too many of these were struck by motorists who then fled the scene or were completely uninsured and could not be held properly accountable for their negligent acts.
Life can throw some unexpected curveballs our way, and being involved in a hit-and-run is one of them. So, let’s talk about what to do if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.
- Put your safety first. Stay calm and take the necessary steps to get yourself out of harm’s way and see to your well-being. Take a moment. Assess yourself and your passengers—with adrenaline pumping through your system, your body may not be sending the proper signals to let you know you’re hurt so take it slow and if you or your passengers appear to be injured, call the paramedics.
- If you’re able to move your vehicle to a safer spot and out of the way of traffic, do so and be sure to turn on your hazard lights.
- Call the police and report the incident. They will create an official report that can be crucial for insurance claims or potential legal action.
- If you’re physically able to do so, gather as much information about the collision as possible. In the case of a hit-and-run, you may not have had time to gather the driver’s license number or a good description of their vehicle, but jot down what you do remember, any details about the driver or their car or truck could be helpful.
- Check for witnesses. If someone stopped to render aid, be sure to get their name and number and have them give their account of the incident to the officer you called to the scene.
- Check for dash cam and video footage of the area. I highly recommend that everyone on the road equip their vehicles with dash cams. These relatively inexpensive devices can catch plate numbers and record the collision for you. If your vehicle is equipped with one, great! Make sure to save the footage. If not, then check to see if any of the witnesses have one. Also, see if there are cameras at the intersection or at nearby businesses that may have caught an image of the driver and their car before they fled the scene.
- To the extent you can, preserve the scene. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and the surrounding area including skid marks or guard rail damage. These photos can serve as valuable evidence later.
- Reach out to your insurance company as soon as possible to report the hit-and-run. Give them the necessary facts of the incident and then politely terminate the call stating you will call them back later. Do not discuss your medical status.
- Seek medical attention. If the paramedics show up, let them assess you. These field-trained experts know the signs of injury even if you don’t recognize them at the time. If the paramedics are not called, consider having someone drive you to the hospital, or at minimum, schedule an appointment with your general doctor the next day.
- Call my office. Once you’re out of harm’s way, you’ve filed your police report, reported the hit-and-run to your insurance company, and been checked out by a medical professional, call my office. I’ll help you navigate the legal aspects of a personal injury claim and guide you toward fair compensation. Investigations into these types of cases take time, but it is possible to track down the responsible party. With a bit of luck and patience, the at-fault party will be found and held accountable for their negligent and criminal actions.
Now that you’ve digested the above, here is the bonus.
If the at-fault person does not have insurance, you can use your insurance. Every insurance policy has a coverage provision called “uninsured motorist.” This coverage protects you in situations where someone else, at fault, has no insurance. Your company will not, in fact, they cannot increase your premiums or cancel your coverage. Using your insurance is one of the benefits you pay for. Your company cannot penalize you for using your benefits. The movie theater people can’t charge you more if you want to sit down to watch the movie.
Finally, remember, you’re not alone. While a hit-and-run accident can be an overwhelming experience, taking the right steps can help you navigate the situation. If you or someone you love is ever involved in a hit-and-run, I urge you to reach out to my office. I’m here for you and ready to help in every way I can.
Until next time, please be safe, and NEVER text while driving!
Attorney Paul Samakow
703-761-4343 or 301-949-1515