Being involved in a car crash can be stressful, especially if the other person involved flees the scene.
Unfortunately, this happens more than you might realize. There’s a hit-and-run accident every minute in the U.S., according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run, the safety of everyone involved is the top priority. But it’s important to keep calm and document everything you can. This will save you time and stress later on, especially when you make a police report.
Make sure everyone is safe, then call 911. Don’t leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive.
We asked law enforcement and insurance experts how to best handle a hit-and-run incident and how it can affect your car insurance.
What is a Hit-and-Run
A hit-and-run is when at least one person involved in a collision leaves without offering aid, sufficient information to the other driver, or fails to report the crash to the authorities. This could be with a pedestrian, car, or object.
In most states, the act of leaving the scene, whether your at-fault or not, is against the law. And depending on the circumstances could be a misdemeanor or even a felony.
If the other driver cannot be identified, you’ll likely have to pay for expenses resulting from the crash. If you have full coverage auto insurance or uninsured motorist coverage, then the damages to you and your property may be covered by your policy.
To properly cover yourself, speak to your insurance provider. “They will guide you in the right direction regarding the limits you should carry on your policy so that you are properly protecting yourself from hit-and-run drivers,” says Joelle Ferraiuolo, risk solutions advocate for Insurance Marketing Agencies, an insurance agency in New England.
What You Should Do After a Hit-and-Run
After you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident, there are certain steps you should take as quickly as you can. In these situations, every moment counts.
Make sure you’re safe
First, check for injuries on yourself and any other passengers. If someone is injured, call 911 before doing anything else. Law enforcement can help with medical assistance.
“There’s stress when being involved in a crash. You know, there’s shock. So that’s one of the reasons why if you’re injured in any way to call 911, so our dispatchers can call an ambulance and make sure you’re safe,” says Dusty Francisco, public information officer for New Mexico State Police.
“Make sure the safety of you and other occupants in the vehicle comes first,” says Francisco. If your car is in a dangerous location after the crash, move out of harm’s way once it’s safe, he says. Check to see if you’re clear of other traffic, then move your car to a safer location where you won’t be in danger of another collision.
Once you’re safe, write down as much information as you can on the other car and driver.
“Gather as much information as possible at the time of the crash — vehicle make and model, color of the vehicle, license plate number, maybe who was driving the vehicle, [and] direction of travel,” says Derek Senegal, public information officer for Louisiana State Police.
Written documentation is important, so you don’t have to rely on memory alone. Pictures can also be helpful.
If there is a witness nearby, ask if they’d be willing to give a statement to the police and take their contact information, Senegal says. “If you’re in a major thoroughfare — of course there are going to be more people around — look for a witness if you can,” continued Senegal.
Call the police
Call 911 as soon as you can. If someone is injured, you should call before doing anything else. But even if nobody was hurt, it’s important to call the police sooner rather than later.
“Don’t wait for a couple hours — just call us so we can get out there,” says Senegal. Police departments get calls after a hit-and-run crash hours after the incident took place, says Senegal. “We can’t do too much for you at that time. We need to make sure we get out there immediately, so we can get everything going for you,” he continued.
After the officer on the scene makes a report of the accident, you should ask for a copy. Your insurance company may require a police report as part of your claim.
Contact your auto insurer
Once the police finish their report, and you’re able to leave the scene, contact your insurer and file a claim. The sooner you call, the better your memory of the incident will be. Try to file a claim the same day as the accident if you can.
“You should do it as soon as the police report has been filed. You typically have within 30 days to file a claim,” says Ferraiuolo.
If you need a tow, this is a good time to contact your roadside assistance provider, if you have it.
Insurance Implications After a Hit-and-Run
Your insurance policy might pick up the tab after a hit-and-run if you have the right coverage. But the coverage available to you varies by state, and how your policy handles a hit-and-run varies by insurer.
In most states, drivers are required to have liability insurance to cover damages that they cause to other people. However, if the at-fault driver flees the scene or is uninsured, you may be on the hook to pay for the damages to your own car.
Having collision coverage and medical payments coverage can help you greatly in this situation. Collision coverage pays for damage to your car, and medical payments coverage pays for your hospital bills after an accident.
Lack of insurance is one reason why a driver might flee the scene of an accident. If you have uninsured motorist property damage coverage, your own insurance company might cover your repair costs if the at-fault driver is uninsured or you don’t know who to file a claim against, such as with a hit-and-run. In a similar vein, uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage can cover your medical expenses.
If you’re not sure how your policy will handle a hit-and-run, check with your insurance providers.