When you get hit by a driver who flees the crash scene, you might assume that any chance you had for financial recovery leaves with the fleeing driver. However, you have options for pursuing compensation after a hit and run accident.
Acting quickly after a crash can help you pursue those options, including seeking coverage under your auto insurance policy and tracking down the hit and run driver to pursue a car accident claim against them.
Obtaining financial relief after a hit and run can prove challenging, so contacting a motor vehicle accident lawyer as early as possible can help relieve the burden and stress of recovering from injuries and losses caused by an auto wreck.
Steps to Take After a Hit and Run Accident
After an accident with a hit and run driver, you can preserve your legal options and put yourself in the best position to seek financial recovery for your injuries and losses.
Following a hit and run accident:
Hire an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney
First, contact a motor vehicle accident lawyer as soon as possible after a crash to get legal help.
A lawyer can pursue potential avenues for compensation for your injuries and losses. An attorney can investigate the crash and help you track down the hit and run driver so you can pursue compensation from them.
Even if you can’t find the driver who hit you, your lawyer can help you seek financial recovery from your insurance policy via PIP and uninsured motorist coverage or other optional coverages you’ve purchased. Your attorney can help you with all the subsequent steps.
Report the Accident to Law Enforcement
You undoubtedly called law enforcement immediately after the crash. Promptly notifying the police that you’ve had a hit and run accident gives officers the best chance of tracking down the driver who fled the scene.
If they can find the driver, they can obtain the driver’s identity, which your attorney will need if you decide to pursue a car accident claim against the hit and run driver.
Obtain a copy of the police accident report if officers respond to the crash scene.
Gather Evidence to Help Locate the Hit and Run Driver
Try to gather any evidence that can help you track down the driver who fled the accident scene.
You probably talked to eyewitnesses to the crash. Be sure to record the details you and the witnesses remembered about the other vehicle, including make, model, color, license plate number, bumper stickers, and other distinguishing features. You can return to the crash scene to search for surveillance cameras that may have captured the collision or the direction the hit and run driver fled.
Get Medical Attention
If you didn’t go to the hospital from the hit and run scene, make it a point to go to your doctor’s office as soon as possible to diagnose the injuries you suffered in the crash.
Delaying medical attention risks aggravating your accident injuries. You may also have a more challenging time connecting your injuries to the accident if you wait too long to seek treatment. Remember to follow your treatment plan and recovery instructions.
Keep Records of Your Injuries and Losses
Keep all bills, invoices, and receipts of expenses you incur due to the accident, including vehicle repairs, medical treatment, or long-term care. Gather your pay stubs or income statements to calculate your lost income if you miss time from work or experience reduced earnings due to your injuries. Request copies of medical records of your treatment and rehabilitation.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Notify your auto insurance provider of the accident as soon as possible to confirm your eligibility for coverage under your policy.
In New York, auto insurance policies must provide at least $50,000 of personal injury protection coverage, which can provide money for medical bills and lost earnings.
If you purchased optional collision coverage, your insurer can pay for vehicle repairs or reimburse you for the value of your car if the accident totaled it. You may also seek compensation through an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance provider.
Legal Obligations Following a Hit and Run Accident
In addition to the obligation to stop or immediately return to the scene of a vehicle collision, state law imposes other obligations on drivers involved in an accident.
After stopping at the accident scene, drivers must aid anyone involved in the crash who has suffered injuries, appears in distress, or requests medical assistance, such as by calling 911 to summon emergency medical services.
Drivers must also exchange information with each other or with owners of any property damaged in the crash. At a minimum, drivers should provide their insurance information to any other party involved in the accident who requests it.
Finally, New York requires drivers to file an accident report within ten days of a collision that results in apparent damage worth more than $1,000 or injuries/fatalities.
Drivers must also contact law enforcement when a person or domestic animal suffers an injury or fatality or when a parked vehicle or property suffers damage, and the driver cannot locate the owner.
Helpful Evidence for Hit and Run Claims
Hit and run accident claims will involve many kinds of evidence. Accident victims may use evidence to help track down and identify a fleeing driver and to prove that the driver caused the crash.
Although fleeing a motor vehicle accident may represent consciousness of guilt, an accident victim must prove that the fleeing driver bears responsibility for causing the crash.
Examples of evidence that can help locate hit and run drivers include:
- Debris that broke off from the fleeing vehicle, which can help identify the vehicle’s make, model, and color
- Witness testimony that can provide a description of the fleeing vehicle or determine where the vehicle fled
- Surveillance or traffic camera footage to identify the fleeing vehicle or help track where it fled
Proving a hit and run driver’s fault for the accident will require evidence like:
- Police accident reports
- Traffic violation and arrest records
- Accident scene photos and videos, including vehicle damage, skid marks, and traffic signs or signals
- Surveillance and traffic camera or dashcam footage
- Eyewitness testimony
- Driver cell phone records
- Vehicle event data recorder (black box) logs
- Post-accident vehicle inspection and repair records
- Accident reconstruction expert reports and testimony
How the Authorities and Legal Representation Can Help After a Hit and Run
After a hit and run accident, you and your legal counsel may work with law enforcement to track down the driver who hit you and fled the crash scene. You can call the police at the accident scene or go to the police station to report that you got hit by a driver who fled.
Tell the police any information that can help officers identify and locate the hit and run driver, including:
- The make, model, and color of the fleeing vehicle
- The fleeing vehicle’s license plate number (even a partial number can help police identify the vehicle)
- Any distinctive features of the fleeing vehicle (e.g., paint stripes, decals, aftermarket parts, etc.)
- The type and location of damage the fleeing vehicle may have sustained in the accident
- The direction that the fleeing vehicle headed in after the crash
Law enforcement will investigate a hit and run accident by searching vehicle registration databases based on any description of the fleeing vehicle that you or other witnesses can provide.
Police may also review surveillance and traffic camera footage to confirm the fleeing vehicle’s description or determine where the vehicle may have headed after the accident. Investigators may also contact local auto and body shops to see if any vehicles have come in for repairs with damage consistent with the accident damage the fleeing vehicle suffered.
Hiring a motor vehicle accident lawyer after a hit and run accident can improve your chances of securing full financial recovery for the expenses or losses you incur due to the accident.
Your lawyer can work with law enforcement as part of the investigation to track down the fleeing driver. An attorney can also help you pursue insurance and legal claims to recover compensation, including filing personal injury protection or uninsured motorist claims with your insurance or pursuing a car accident claim against the hit and run driver if you later discover their identity.
Pursuing Insurance Claims Following Hit and Run Accidents
After a hit and run accident, you can use your insurance coverage to secure financial resources for your recovery. Personal injury protection, which all drivers in New York must carry, can provide you with money for medical treatment, home care or support services, or lost income after getting hurt in an auto accident, regardless of who may have caused the crash.
If you purchased optional collision coverage, you can obtain reimbursement for repair costs to fix your vehicle or the value of your car if totaled in the accident.
Finally, uninsured motorist coverage, which auto policies in New York must include, can provide you with compensation you have the right to obtain from the at-fault hit and run driver.
Although uninsured motorist coverage typically applies when an at-fault driver lacks liability insurance, insurers treat unidentified hit and run drivers like uninsured motorists, permitting accident victims to file uninsured motorist claims.
However, if you eventually identify the hit and run driver, you may have the right to seek compensation from the driver by filing a claim against their liability insurance coverage.
What Can You Recover Compensation for After a Hit and Run?
In a hit and run accident claim, you may have the right to recover compensation for various financial and personal losses you sustain due to your injuries.
A financial recovery can include money for your:
- Vehicle repair expenses or reimbursement for the actual cash value of your car if the accident totaled it
- Medical treatment and rehabilitation for accident injuries
- Long-term care and support services, such as home health care or housekeeping, to help you cope with prolonged or permanent disabilities
- Ongoing and future losses of income when you cannot work or earn as much as you did before the accident due to temporary or permanent disabilities
- Physical pain and anguish or emotional distress caused by severe injuries
Get Experienced Legal Representation To Help You Maximize Your Financial Recovery in a Hit and Run Accident Claim
Seeing the driver who hit you immediately speed away from the accident scene can shock and anger you. Fortunately, you might track down a hit and run driver or pursue financial recovery for expenses or losses you sustain due to the accident.
Although law enforcement can help locate the hit and run driver, working with an experienced personal injury attorney can give you the best chance to recover the compensation you need for your medical bills, vehicle repairs, and lost income.