You don’t expect to get into a car accident. And you certainly don’t expect the other vehicle to drive off without even stopping to see if you’re okay. However, this scenario may be more common than you realize, especially in Atlanta.
Although hit and runs are not as frequent as other types of accidents, they are more common in Georgia than in almost every other state. In 2016, there were 72 hit and runs in Georgia involving at least one fatality.
When the other driver leaves, the way you report the accident is different than it would be in a crash where all parties are known. Were you in a collision and watched as the other driver fled the scene? Keep reading to learn how to report a hit and run.
What Is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run involves striking a vehicle, another type of property, a cyclist, or a person and then leaving the scene.
It is your duty as a driver to stop and provide your contact and insurance details to the other party whenever you hit anything or anyone.
You must stop even if you don’t know who owns the property or if you think there’s little-to-no damage.
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What to Do in a Hit and Run Accident
When a driver doesn’t stop and there was minimal damage or injuries, the police can charge them with a misdemeanor. Where another person is severely injured or killed, then a hit-and-run incident becomes a felony.
If you’re involved in this type of accident, follow these steps:
1. Stay Where You Are
Just because the driver left doesn’t mean you should too.
You need to stay on the scene, call the police, and continue on just as you would if the other car stayed on the scene.
2. Call the Police
While you don’t always need to call the police when there’s little damage, fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime.
The police report will be essential both for finding the car that fled and for your insurance process. Failing to call the police could even lead to a denied insurance claim. You don’t want to be stuck with the cost of the damage.
3. Write Down Details While You Wait
If you can, write down the other vehicle’s make, model, and color. Do it right away so you don’t forget. If you remember any of the license plate numbers, keep a note of this, too. It will make it much easier to find the car later, especially if there are no traffic cameras near the scene.
Other things to include:
- The location of the accident
- The direction in which the other vehicle traveled
- Time of the accident
- Approximately damage to the other vehicle
Write all this down as you wait for the police. You are required to call the police if the other driver fled after causing the accident.
4. How to Report a Hit and Run to Your Insurance Company
With the police report in your hand, you’re ready to file a claim with your insurance company.
Unfortunately, uninsured motorist property damage coverage or collision coverage don’t usually cover hit-and-run incidents in Georgia. If your insurance company denies your claim, then your best hope is the police’s ability to find the person who fled the scene.
5. Hire a Lawyer
If the police find the driver, then you can hire a hit and run accident lawyer to pursue a civil case against them so they can pay for the damages.
Damages Available to You After a Hit and Run
In a civil case, you are allowed to ask for the driver to cover costs like your medical bills and lost income. You can also ask for pain and suffering damages if you are injured. Because a hit and run is a criminal offense (a misdemeanor, in most cases), you can sue the driver for punitive damages.
Why You Can Pursue Punitive Damages in a Hit and Run Claim
Even when an accident is purely accidental, the decision to leave the scene is a crime. It’s also a deliberate decision, even if it was made in a second. The punitive damages reflect their decision not to follow the law.
The punitive damages available to you can increase even more if the driver appeared to be overtly drunk (i.e., if the accident was preventable, they got out of the car and staggered, or if they swerved as they drove away).
These damages differ from pain and suffering because they explicitly punish the driver.
If you intend to file a personal injury suit, you need to do so quickly. The statute of limitations on a hit-and-run is only two years. As time passes, the case becomes more difficult to manage.
What if I Don’t Want to Pursue a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Even if you don’t have a case, or don’t intend to sue, you can still benefit from a lawyer’s help.
Filing a claim with your insurance company is difficult enough. However, in a hit-and-run, you must seek compensation from your own insurance company first. They sell you the policy with the hope that they won’t have to compensate you at some point.
Your insurance company may try to fight you, and the likelihood that they will deny your claim grows when you have little evidence, such as if you weren’t present when someone hit your car.
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Is a Hit and Run Considered an At-Fault Accident?
Hit and run accident insurance claims can be tricky.
If you have uninsured motorist insurance coverage, you can be listed as not-at-fault in a hit and run accident. If you don’t have this type of coverage and your collision insurance ends up covering the damages, you could be listed as at-fault in the accident. If you can afford uninsured motorist coverage, it is always a smart idea to carry it.
Were You Involved in a Hit and Run?
If you, your car, or another type of property were involved in a hit and run, then you have a long road ahead of you. These accidents are far more complicated than a typical collision because the other driver makes the conscious decision to flee the scene.
Whether you intend to file a loss with your insurer or sue the driver (when found), you could benefit from the advice of an Atlanta car accident lawyer.