Car accidents are often traumatic, but they’re especially stressful if the at-fault driver flees the scene. If you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, you may be suffering physically, emotionally, and financially. Although you need to focus on your recovery, you may be preoccupied with all sorts of worrisome issues: for example, who caused the accident, as well as how you will pay for your medical bills and loss of income. Understanding what to do after a hit-and-run accident might help you hold the other driver accountable for their wrongful actions and recover damages to pay for your losses.
What Is a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Per the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hit-and-run collisions are those in which “at least one person involved in a crash flees the scene before offering any (or sufficient) information or aid to the other involved persons, or fails to properly report the crash.” People who are involved in motor vehicle accidents are legally obligated to remain at the scene, offer help to injured victims, call 911, and exchange their insurance and identity information with the other drivers. In fact, under R.S.Mo. § 577.060, leaving the scene of an accident in which someone is injured is a class E felony in Missouri. This felony carries the potential of up to four years in prison, as well as a fine of $10,000. However, despite the potential for severe penalties, many drivers still leave the scenes of accidents that they cause. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that an estimated 682,000 hit-and-run accidents happen in the U.S. every year. Additionally, the number of people who were killed in hit-and-run accidents has increased by an average of 7.2 percent per year since 2009. So, what do you do if another driver causes a crash and flees the scene?
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
After a hit-and-run accident, you should call 911 immediately from the scene of the accident. Remain at the scene until emergency help arrives. While you are waiting for the emergency responders and police to arrive, check yourself and others for injuries. If you can, provide help to other people who are injured. If you have noticeable injuries like cuts, scrapes, or bruises, do your best to photograph the wounds immediately after the accident. Photographic evidence is helpful as you work to hold the other driver accountable for this interruption to your life. Finally, when emergency help arrives, be sure to communicate with police and emergency medical respondents. Once they have the necessary information, officers can then start investigating the accident and work to identify the missing driver. Remember that talking to the responding officers provides you with an opportunity to explain what happened.
Document the Hit-and-Run Scene
Preserving evidence from the accident scene can strengthen your case. Use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene, including surrounding details such as skid marks, traffic signals, and speed limits. You should also thoroughly document the damage to your vehicle. Don’t be afraid to take a lot of pictures, capturing up-close details of the damage to your vehicle and the entire scope of the accident scene. If any witnesses saw what happened, ask them to stay at the scene to tell the police what they saw. In addition, ask them for their names and contact information so that your lawyer can contact them later.
Write Everything Down
As soon as you can, write down everything that you remember about the accident while your memories are fresh. Do not guess at the details; instead, try to recall as many facts as possible and leave some details blank if necessary. The more detail that you can include, the better. If you suffered injuries, you should also document how you are affected by them each day in a journal. For example, if you’re experiencing muscle soreness, you should do your best to assign a rating to your discomfort – using a scale of one to five, maybe – and write down each day’s pain rating. This can help put your discomfort in perspective as you seek justice for the other driver’s role in the accident. Finally, make sure to get copies of all of your medical records, as well as any invoices to demonstrate the type of treatment, and the associated medical bills, that you will face during your recovery period.
Give Responding Officers as Much Information as Possible
As mentioned above, be sure to communicate with the officers who respond to the scene of your accident. Police officers have access to tools that they can use to help find the driver who fled the scene. For example, they may check local businesses or homes for surveillance cameras that might have recorded the driver’s license plate, the vehicle’s make and model, and other information about the driver or their vehicle. Additionally, police officers may also ask people in the area if they can remember any important details from the crash. Sometimes they even post about hit-and-run accidents on social media, with the hope that someone will see the post and provide information about the driver’s identity. By giving the police as much information as you can, you can increase the likelihood that they will find the at-fault driver.
It can be hard to know what to do after a hit-and-run accident. After all, you may be injured, anxious, and unsure of where to turn. Ultimately, the best course of action is to work with authorities and document any and all impacts of the crash – including its impact on your personal health and well-being. Finally, remember that you’re entitled to compensation after the trauma of a hit-and-run. An experienced attorney can help you hold the other driver accountable, helping you move on after the accident.
In the aftermath of a stressful hit-and-run accident, you need an experienced attorney on your side. If you live in southwest Missouri, contact the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave. Our talented attorneys can help you navigate the legal issues that arise and fight for the compensation you deserve. To get started, call 417-322-2222 or send us a message online.
Original blog post published on August 19, 2021. Updated on October 31, 2021.