7 Steps to Take After a Hit-and-Run Car Accident
Posted on behalf of Arnold Law Firm on Sep 14, 2017 in Auto Accidents
Fleeing the scene of a car accident is illegal in California, and every other state in the nation. Hit-and-run drivers can be charged with a felony if anyone in the other car suffers an injury, even if it is a minor one.
Despite these laws, hit-and-run accidents still happen on California roadways, and these auto accidents can render victims unable to recover compensation for medical costs and other damages.
Our experienced hit-and-run accident attorneys discuss seven steps to take if you become a vicitim in a hit-and-run accident. It is especially important to contact an attorney when involved in a hit-and-run accident to determine all of your legal options and the compensation you deserve.
1. Study the Other Car as it Flees the Scene
In most cases, hit-and-run victims have only a few seconds to collect information about the other car before it is out of view. This is why victims should do their best to watch the car closely so they can describe it to police.
Take mental notes of important details, including:
- License plate number, make, model and color of the vehicle
- Any distinguishing features on the car, such as damage from the crash
- Physical characteristics of the driver, including sex, race, possible age and any other identifying features
- The direction the car was headed
Immediately, write down everything you noticed about the other car and the person driving it so you do not forget anything.
2. Look for Witnesses
In many cases, witnesses have a better view of the accident than the victims. Look for witnesses after being involved in any type of car accident. If there are any businesses, restaurants or other retail establishments nearby, ask employees or customers if they saw anything.
Obtain contact information for any witnesses you speak with so you can contact them in the future for clarification or as potential witnesses in an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit if necessary. An account of an accident from an eyewitness can be powerful evidence.
3. Take Pictures
Pictures of the accident scene, damaged vehicle and injuries suffered are essential evidence. If you are physically able and have a smartphone with you, take pictures of your injuries and the damage to your car. You should also take pictures of the area where the crash occurred, making sure to include any property damage caused by the crash.
4. Call the Police
When law enforcement arrives, explain that you were in a hit-and-run accident and have information about the car, the driver or both. This information will assist the police in tracking down the car and the person who was driving it.
The officer will also include the details you provide in his or her report about the accident. This becomes a key piece of evidence in a car accident claim. It serves as an official record of what occurred and helps to prove who was at fault.
5. Get Medical Attention
Injuries from a vehicle accident can be worse than you originally observe. You should seek a medical evaluation even if you do not feel much immediate pain or suspect a significant injury right away. You may have suffered injuries you are not even aware of.
Doctors will not only provide any treatment you need, they will document and any injuries in your medical records. Similar to the police report, this becomes an official record of the injuries you suffered in the accident. This is valuable evidence that helps to demonstrate the seriousness of your claim.
Before leaving the hospital or medical facility, you can ask about obtaining copies of your medical records. You will need them to pursue compensation.
6. File an Insurance Claim
File an insurance claim as soon as possible following any car accident. Insurance companies often have deadlines for filing claims, and a missed deadline can result in a lost opportunity to obtain compensation you rightfully deserve.
However, with hit-and-run accidents, it can be confusing to identify the correct insurance company with which to file your claim. The answer depends on three factors:
If the Police Found the Driver
If the police locate the driver, you may be able to obtain compensation from this person. California follows a fault-based system, which means the person who caused the accident is liable for all damages he or she caused.
If the police were unable to locate the driver, you may need to seek compensation from your own insurance policy.
If the Other Driver Has Insurance
The best-case scenario with a hit-and-run accident is if the driver is identifed and they have adequate insurance coverage. In this situation, you can file a claim with the driver's insurance company and pursue compensation for your medical expenses, up to the limits of the policy.
Unfortunately, hit-and-run drivers often flee the scene of an accident because do not have state-mandated car insurance. If this occurs, you still may not be able to pursue compensation from this person.
If Your Insurance Has Coverage for a Hit-and-run Accident
If the police cannot find the driver or is the identified driver has no insurance, your last option is to file a claim with your own insurance company. These are the types of insurance coverage you may be able to draw compensation from after a hit-and-run accident:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury – This pays for injuries you suffered in an accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault. This coverage has the same limits as your liability coverage.
- Collision – This provides compensation for damage to your car caused by another vehicle.
- Medical payments – This pays your medical expenses if you suffer an injury in an accident. The minimum amount you must purchase is $1,000.
If you do not have any of these coverages and have only the minimum coverage required by the state of California, you may not be able to obtain compensation. Minimum coverage only provides compensation for injuries and property damage to others, not the policyholder.
7. Contact an Attorney
An experienced attorney can advise you of all of your legal options after a hit-and-run accident, including filing an insurance claim or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.
Your attorney can manage every aspect of your insurance claim or lawsuit from conducting an investigation to negotiating fair compensation. Unlike insurers, your attorney will always have your best interests in mind every step of the way.
Get a Free Case Evaluation
We have represented victims of many types of car crashes, including hit-and-run accidents. We have detailed knowledge of the insurance claims process and many years of combined experience negotiating compensation with insurers.
Our firm is committed to putting your best interests first throughout the entire legal process. Our attorneys want you to have all of the compensation you are entitled so you have the means to help put this chapter of your life behind you.
Schedule your free, no obligation legal consultation today to review your claim. If we take your case, we will represent you on contingency, which means you do not pay unless we obtain compensation for you.