At least one driver leaves a car accident scene every minute in the United States. Information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that hit-and-run crashes caused 2,049 fatalities in 2016 alone. An average of 682,000 hit-and-run crashes happens every year.
What Happens After a Driver Leaves the Scene?
If a driver flees an accident scene, law enforcement officers will show up at the scene and perform an investigation. They may start by recording a statement from the victim, especially if he or she is capable. They may interview eyewitnesses (if any) to gather information regarding the event. They will likely check surveillance footage of the scene from nearby traffic light cameras or neighboring businesses’ cameras.
The officers can test the paint left on the victim’s car at the point of collision to help identify the kind of vehicle responsible for the hit-and-run accident. They may also examine whether drugs and alcohol contributed to the accident. If the compiled evidence is sufficient to help the officers identify the fleeing driver along with the driver’s workplace or home, they may obtain an arrest warrant.
Taking Important Steps after a Driver Leaves the Scene
Drivers who get into a car accident tend to flee the scene because of various reasons. Some flee due to panic, confusion, or guilt, especially if they don’t have a valid license or required insurance. Others flee because they are impaired by alcohol or drugs, or otherwise feel the accident happened due to their gross negligence. Whatever the reason, it’s difficult to control the actions of the other driver. What a victim can control is how he or she acts after the other driver flees the scene. Taking the following steps is crucial in a hit and run accident.
- Taking Notes
Taking notes is the first step a victim of a hit and run car accident should take. He or she should take down the information about the other vehicle, including color, model, number plate, and any damage. Witnesses at the scene can be a valuable source of information. The victim should ask the witnesses to describe what happened, what they observed, and any information they recall about the other car and driver. Taking pictures of vehicle damage and the state of the road is also important.
- Recording a Police Statement
After calling the law enforcement officers and taking notes regarding what took place, the victim should proceed to record a police statement. He or she should give all crucial details about the accident, from a detailed description of the driver and vehicle, pictures of the scene and vehicle, to witnesses’ contact details.
- Reporting the Crash to the Insurer
Since hit and run accident victims may be able to recover compensation by filing a claim against their own uninsured motorist policy, notifying the insurance company about the accident is another crucial step. Victims should use care with what they say, however. They should answer questions honestly, but avoid giving extra details or allowing the insurance company to record a statement.
- Seeking Medical Assistance
The victim should also see a doctor soon after an accident since an assessment can help identify and treat hidden injuries. Certain types of severe injuries may not be obvious right away, and late treatment could lead to long-term disability or even death. Moreover, seeing a doctor after a crash is the best way to have injuries documented, which is a requirement when it comes to filing an injury claim.
Penalties for Leaving an Accident Scene
Drivers across all states are prohibited from fleeing an accident scene. Doing so can result in numerous penalties. If there is someone injured or killed as a result of the accident, the penalties become harsher. Hit-and-run penalties include a misdemeanor or felony charge, fines, suspension or cancellation of driver’s license, and jail sentences. The injured driver can pursue compensation for losses by filing a civil claim against the other driver. On top of all these penalties, the insurance company may decide to cancel the car insurance policy of the liable driver.
Seeking Legal Support
If a driver gets into a car accident, he or she should stop the vehicle and notify law enforcement officers about the crash. Whether or not the driver is at fault for the accident, working closely with a car crash lawyer can help him or her deal with the situation in the most appropriate manner.
The lawyer can help the driver put up a strong defense against allegations of wrongdoing and sue the liable person for the losses. The lawyer can also help a hit-and-run victim thoroughly analyze the case and develop the right plan to rebuild his or her life as well as pursue fair compensation.