If you get into a car accident that isn’t your fault, then the law is on your side. This is the purpose for car insurance and it should then follow that the driver that was to blame will pay for the damage and for any medical costs through their insurance. It is a legal requirement that drivers should have insurance and therefore you should be able to safely presume that the other party will have the available funds to pay for the damage and you should be able to get back onto the road and afford any medical costs without any personal financial loss.
But of course it doesn’t always work like that. For example, what happens if you are in a car accident and the other person drives away? What if you are the victim of a hit and run?
In these cases, you won’t be able to get the costs paid by anyone else and you’ll be left to deal with them. This can be a very frustrating and upsetting experience as you now not only have the shock and trauma of being in a car accident but also the stress and inconvenience of having to pay for damage that was not your fault and that may have been outside of your control.
So, what do you do?
If you have been in a car accident and the other driver did not stop to exchange details, then that is technically classified as a ‘hit and run’. This is an infraction and means that the other driver will face charges if they are eventually caught.
A hit and run is any kind of accident in which one party intentionally leaves the scene without providing contact information. If they haven’t stopped to ask if you are alright and to offer to exchange insurance details/contact information, then they have broken the law. Even if the accident was your fault!
The first thing to do if you are the victim of a hit and run is to assess the local area and to see if there is any information that can help you to catch the culprit.
First, assess your own memory. Can you remember the make and model of the vehicle? Do you remember what the other driver looked like? Write down these details while they are fresh in your memory and it may improve your chances of tracking down the driver. Police may be able to narrow down potential culprits by looking at who is in the local area and drives that car. Of course, if you can get a number plate down on paper then that will be even better.
Another good idea is to get out the car (making sure it is safe to do so) and see if there were any witnesses who might be willing to give a statement. Ask if they saw the number plate and ask if they would be willing to give you their contact details to help you catch the culprit. If it ultimately comes down to your word against theirs in a court of law, then this could help sway the decision in your favor.
Likewise, try to look for any other evidence. Skid marks on the road and the nature of the damage to your car will help you to demonstrate what happened (even when you catch the driver, that doesn’t mean they will admit fault). Better yet, try going into local stores in the area and asking if they have security camera footage that they would be willing to let you use. These days there is almost always some form of security camera or CCTV in built-up areas and even motorways will often have recording devices in place.
One thing you must never do is to try and pursue the person who hit you. If you do this, then you risk causing further accident and you will lose the opportunity to follow the steps outlined.
Following this, you can then file a police report. The police will then be able to use the information you have given them and any other details in order to try and track down the guilty party. From here, you may be able to get compensation from the driver either through their insurance, or out of their own pocket (if they don’t have insurance). Even if they aren’t successful in apprehending the culprit, simply having a police report on file can help you legally in a number of ways.
For example, there is a possibility that your current car insurance policy will include ‘uninsured motorist coverage’. This will cover hit and run accidents in many cases and that means you will only have to pay the agreed excess. In some cases, this will affect your premiums going forward but in others it will not (this often depends on your state). Check the small print in your contract to be sure. Some states actually require uninsured motorist coverage, so there is a good chance you’ll be protected.
Failing that, you may find that you can get compensation through charitable organizations that support victims of crime. If you have filed a police report, then they may well get in touch with you. Otherwise, you can try looking online to see if you are able to find an organization willing to help.