Car accidents are frightening no matter the circumstances. The collision might be painful, but the process of making sure passengers are okay and that you have all of the information you need for the police can also be incredibly stressful. That stress only compounds when you see the other driver speed away.
It’s easy to panic in a situation like this. You’re worried about whether insurance will cover the damage and if you’ll be found at fault with little to no evidence to support your claims. And what if the other driver is never found? It’s important not to panic. There are steps you can take to improve your chances of the best possible outcome. Let’s explore these steps so you’ll know what to do in case of a hit and run.
What is a hit and run?
Before we lay out the steps of what to do in a hit and run, let’s talk about what’s considered one. A hit and run is any collision in which a driver leaves the scene of an accident without stopping. By law in all 50 U.S. States, if a driver hits another person, vehicle, or piece of property, they must stop and provide insurance information.
What happens if someone commits a hit and run in Oklahoma?
Laws are different depending on your state, but in Oklahoma, a hit and run can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. Hit and runs that result in property damage are normally considered misdemeanors while those that result in injury or death might be considered felonies.
What to do if you’re the victim of a hit and run
1. Stay calm and do not leave the scene
Sometimes people are tempted to pursue the car in a hit and run, but this is a bad idea. Try to stay calm, take a deep breath, and move your car to a safe location nearby. The most important thing to do is not panic or act brashly.
2. Make sure everyone is safe
Firstly, make sure you aren’t hurt. Accidents happen quickly and it can take your body a moment, or sometimes days, to react if you’re hurt. Check on your passengers. Lastly, get out and check on any pedestrians or occupants of other cars that could have gotten hurt. Call 911 to request an ambulance if needed and to have a police officer file a report.
3. Call the police
It’s absolutely essential to get the cops involved no matter the state of the accident. You can take care of some of the following steps while waiting for the officer to arrive. Once the officer arrives and you answer his or her questions, request a case number so you will be able to retrieve the police report, and ask when they think the police report will be ready for you to obtain. Normally, the police officer will provide you with a print out with the case number on the report and it will have other helpful information. This is not the police report, but it is an important document that will help you with identifying parties, insurance companies and other vital information.
4. Recall as much as possible
If you can remember the make, model, color, or license plate number of the car that hit you, write it down immediately. Additionally, try to remember the details of the collision, including the direction the car was going, the driver’s appearance, and any notable marking or bumper stickers on their car. This can make the process of finding the other driver much easier. It’s important to do this quickly because the longer you wait, the more likely you are to forget. It also helps the police in locating the person who hit you.
5. Take photos of any damage
Photos can act as evidence in police reports and potentially in court. They are far more reliable than verbal evidence from yourself or from eyewitnesses.
6. Talk to witnesses
If any other drivers or pedestrians stuck around after the accident, ask for their names and phone numbers. You can give these to the police later and if you retain a law firm, this could be useful information for your attorney to have.
7. File an insurance claim
Once everything is taken care of at the scene, you are safe to leave and go home. But it’s crucial that you file an insurance claim within twenty-four hours of the accident. If you were able to figure out the identity of the driver through description or license plate number, their insurance will be responsible for covering your damages.
If you weren’t able to discern the driver’s identity, you’ll have to rely on your own insurance coverage. If you have bare minimum coverage like liability insurance, you may not be covered and will have to rely on the police finding the other driver. If you have a higher-level coverage like collision, uninsured, underinsured motorist, medical payments (MedPay), or personal injury protection coverage, you are more likely to get your damages paid for. Let’s look at an overview of each of these items. However, for the very best explanation of what these coverage styles are, it is best to talk with your personal insurance agent and/or read your insurance policy.
- Collision coverage covers payment to repair or replace your vehicle if and when it becomes damaged by a collision with another object, including a vehicle. This will pay for damages regardless of what happens with the other driver.
- Uninsured motorist coverage will provide you with coverage for a variety of items whenever the other driver either does not have insurance, is underinsured, or if you cannot locate the other driver. Underinsured motorist is very similar to uninsured motorist but normally kicks in after the at fault motorist insurance policy has paid policy limits. If there are still items to be covered, your underinsured motorist coverage will take effect.
- Medical payments (MedPay) is a coverage that is applicable regardless of who is at fault, and is normally paid to you from your insurance company very quickly. This is a benefit that can make the difference between your being able to get medical assistance quickly or not in some cases.
To protect yourself in the event of a hit and run, we highly recommend adding one or more of these coverages to your insurance plan.
Car Accident Help is here to stand with you
Dealing with the legal side of a hit and run can be a headache, especially when you should be able to focus on physically recovering from your injuries and emotionally recovering from a traumatic event. The skilled, experienced car accident attorneys at Car Accident Help are an invaluable resource during this process. If you need help regarding any injuries resulting from a car accident, contact us today for a free consultation.