A car crash is unsettling and aggravating, but it is even worse if you are hit followed by the quick departure of the perpetrator. The person who caused the wreck is gone and you have no idea who they are. If you are injured in the incident, it is even worse and you can feel alone, confused, and violated.
You suffered injuries in a hit and run, what can you do when the offender is unknown?
The experienced hit and run accident attorneys at Joel J. Kofsky specialize in helping those hurt by the carelessness of others and they know the intricacies of handling a hit and run incident, which can be complicated. In most states, you need to file a claim through your own insurance company, and that is the case in Philadelphia, but you need a lawyer on your side who knows how to fight for fair compensation. Hit and run claims are usually filed under your uninsured motorist insurance, but every case is different and you want an experienced hit and run attorney fighting for your rights and to make sure your losses are made whole.
What is a Hit and Run and Why is it Different from other Car Crashes?
The definition of a hit and run is obvious to many, but to be thorough it is an accident where a driver strikes:
- another car,
- or any other person or property,
then leaves the scene.
So, a hit and run accident is a unique problem if you are hurt because your injuries were caused by the negligent actions of others, but you do not know who the “others” are. This presents a number of questions, like:
- Can you be compensated for your losses resulting from your injuries?
- Is it possible to identify the hit and run driver?
- Do you need to identify the other driver?
- How do you file a claim?
- Fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime, do I need to press charges?
The answers to these questions are not always simple to find and a personal injury lawyer can help. But there are a number of things you should do when a hit and run occurs. It is important to know what steps you can take at the accident scene, and after you leave the wreck, because your actions can impact the claims you may need to file at a later date.
Why do Drivers Flee an Accident Scene?
Drivers can flee for various reasons, including:
- Drunk driving or drug use.
- Texting while driving.
- The driver is uninsured.
- Driving a vehicle without permission.
- Driving a stolen vehicle.
- Lack of a valid driver’s license, or it has been suspended.
- Driving a company vehicle and the driver does not want his employer to know.
- An outstanding warrant for the driver’s arrest for unpaid tickets or crimes.
- Illegal immigrant.
- Transporting illegal goods or drugs.
And there are more reasons why someone may flee, and your hit and run accident is proof it does happen. Regardless the reason, fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime and can have serious repercussions. You should always stop when there is an accident. Keep in mind, this also means the person who hit you is now facing potential criminal charges.
Steps to Take at the Accident Scene
It is difficult and confusing after a car wreck, and it is even harder when the person who hit you is missing from the scene. But stay calm and remember your actions may affect the claim(s) you may have.
First things first, make sure those who are injured get the medical attention they need, including you. After that, you need to begin to:
Write down or record in a voice memo all the details at the accident scene before you forget.
If you are hurt too badly to conduct the rest of the items on the “to do” list that follows, ask someone who is able to do it for you. These steps after an accident are important to do to maximize your chances of a settlement that is favorable to you.
- Get medical attention for all of the injured, including you.
- Call the police and file a verbal accident report with the police.
- Write down the time and place of the accident.
- Gather all the information you do know about the car and driver that fled.
- Collect witness names and contact information.
- Take pictures (and look for security or traffic cameras than may have recorded the accident).
- Do not say anything that admits or implies your guilt.
Medical attention has already been mentioned, but it is worth repeating and do not refuse medical attention if offered for you. The shock and adrenaline associated with being in an accident can make it difficult to realize the severity of your injuries. Let the first responders do their job and give you the medical attention required. Of course, this is important for your health but it is also important to establish your injuries that resulted from the car crash.
Call the Police
Once the all injured are tended to, make sure the police are on the scene. If they are not, call the police. For accidents where injuries are involved, you are required to report the incident to the police and file an accident report. But beyond meeting your responsibilities under the law, you also want to get the details of your story on the record, and talking to the police at the accident site while details are fresh in your memory helps to establish your version of events. The police report is often referred to when claims are processed, so it is important to make sure the events as you recall them are accurate in the police report. This includes following up with officials as needed and ensuring the police record is accurate.
The first thing you should record is often overlooked. Write the time and place of the accident. This is some of the basic information used to identity your accident, but many forget to write it down.
Since the offender fled, you do not know who it is and you must collect as much information as possible about the hit and run driver and vehicle. The color, make, and model of the vehicle that hit you may help police find a suspect, so write it down and report it to the police. If you know the license plate, even better. And if you saw the hit and run driver, make sure to write down a description of them while it is still vivid in your memory. Do not wait and make sure ALL the information you have regarding the hit and run vehicle and driver is captured in writing or a voice memo on your phone.
Then there are all those little details unique to your accident. An odd bumper sticker on the car that hit you, a light that was out on the other car, a sound you heard, an odd hat the driver who fled was wearing, and anything the helps to document who was there and what happened. It might seem trivial, especially with your nerves frayed after the accident, but the detailed information is often vital to proving what happened, and who was at fault. Write it all down or use the recorder on your phone and make a long voice memo with all the details you remember. These details fade fast after you leave the site of the car accident.
Look around, did someone witness the accident? It is not unusual for there to be witnesses and they often stay at the scene. They can be other drivers, pedestrians, bike riders, etc. Talk to them and get their names and contact information. Ask if they are willing to testify to what they witnessed. Their input may be a vital piece of information to validate your version of events.
Most phones these days have cameras, and if you have the ability, take more pictures than you think you will need. Take pictures of the general area where the accident occurred to document the place and road conditions. Look closely at your car’s damage, is there another car’s paint there? If so, document it, it may help establish a tie to the perpetrator. But also photograph items like skid marks, damage to your or other vehicles, dents or destruction to guardrails or other objects, anything related to the car crash or the cause of the wreck. Was it snowing, or was there a big pothole that maybe a driver swerved around? Take a picture if you think it had anything to do with the accident.
Speaking of cameras, in our modern society cameras are everywhere. Look around, a security or traffic camera may have captured the accident. If so, note the camera’s location in your notes, or take a picture of it. It may be possible to obtain the pictures or videos from these cameras, and it could be valuable to in establishing your story, as well as finding the driver who caused the wreck.
Finally, you should avoid a potential pitfall at the accident scene.
Do not admit responsibility for anything to anybody, never!
It is all too easy to say something careless that comes back later to haunt you because it was misunderstood or twisted and used against you. Watch what you say and avoid anything that might even imply you are admitting guilt. Also, do not get emotional and make statements you will regret later. After a hit and run, you are emotional, even if you think you are not. Do not say things like “I was so angry” or anything that can be interpreted by others as an admission of partial guilt.
In short, stay calm and get help for all those with injuries, including yourself. Watch what you say and the more information you are able to collect, the better your chances for a satisfactory settlement.
And one last thing worth noting, insurance companies are always on the lookout for fraud. It is has become more common for drivers to hit an object then claim they are victims of a hit and run. You do not want to leave this possibility open as a way for insurance companies to reject or lessen payments to you for your losses. With the details documented (photographs, security camera footage, written notes, verbal report to the police, voice memos, witnesses, etc.), the chances of proving beyond a doubt that you were a victim of a hit and run are much improved.
Steps to take after the Accident
So, you took the proper steps at the car crash scene, now what? The reality of your situation is starting to become clear, and you begin to accept finding the other driver may be difficult. And while you did your due diligence at the accident scene, there is unfortunately still plenty to do, like:
- Hire the best car accident lawyer you can.
- File an accident report.
- Confirm the police report is accurate.
- File a claim.
- Establish your losses.
- Press charges against guilty driver if they are found and pursue civil penalties.
Hire the Best Accident Lawyer Possible
It is an understatement to say the law can be complicated. And with hit and run incidents, there are rules and regulations established that can dictate how and to who you need to file and pursue a claim when the negligent driver is unknown. Making a mistake and not following one of these protocols can hurt your claim. The average person is not savvy to the workings of the law, but a professional accident attorney is. Hiring the best car accident lawyers possible brings the knowledge and experience you need to increase your chances of a fair settlement. So, first chance after leaving the accident scene, you should call an experienced firm like Joel J. Kofsky and discuss your case an experienced lawyer.
File an Accident Report
In Philadelphia, you have five days to file and accident report. If you do not, the penalties can be severe, including losing your driver’s license. Do not wait, file your accident report with the police as soon as possible. Failure to do so exposes you to many repercussions and lessen your chances of recovering your losses.
Check the Police Report
Another often overlooked detail you want to take care of is to make sure the police report is accurate. Obtain a copy of the police report as soon as it is issued, and review it for errors. If there are mistakes, you must act quickly. Be polite and present documentation to show the error and present your argument on why and how it should be fixed. If the police officer does not agree to change the report, then you can file your own report that may be attached to the police report. It is important to get the police report correct as it is often relied on by the insurance companies when claims are filed.
File Your Claims
While a bit obvious, your injuries will result in losses and you must file a claim, or claims, to recover these expenses. Medical costs in particular. Since the negligent driver is unknown in many hit and runs, you cannot file claims with their insurance company for losses you incurred because of their carelessness. However, in many hit and run incidents you are able to file a claim with your own insurance company. This can be a bit complicated and depends on the type of insurance policy you purchased. The procedures may also limit what you are qualified to collect, so you need to know how to maximize what you are eligible for under your plan, and how to push back if the insurance company tries to deny your claim. An experienced hit and run lawyer is knowledgeable in handling these matters and can help you with all the claims you might have. Without an attorney, you risk making a costly mistake that could affect the rest of your life.
Establish Your Losses
And that conveniently leads us to establishing your losses due your injuries. You will need to prove the hit and run driver was negligent, caused the accident, and caused your injuries. But then you must establish the losses you suffered as a result of the car crash. This involves items like:
- past and future medical treatment
- lost income
- future lost earnings (including diminished ability to earn a living)
- pain and suffering
- vehicle damage
You must keep records and documents to prove all of these expenses to establish your losses. This requires you to be meticulous and obsessive with your records. It is vital to prove what your losses are in order make the best possible arguments for proper compensation.
This is fair amount of work and the more details and documentation you can produce, the stronger your argument. However, the average person is not experienced with this type of negotiation. But an experience car accident lawyer does, and the lawyers of Joel J. Kofsky protect their client’s rights and fight for the best possible settlement in a hit and run case. It is unfortunate reality of hit and run cases, the settlements often to not cover the losses fully. It is important to have the knowledge and experience on your side that an experienced lawyer can provide.
File Additional Claims and Charges Against the Hit and Run Driver if Found
While the odds may not be in your favor, but the hit and run driver may be found. What happens if they are identified? Well, in short things get a little more complicated. For example, you may now be able to file for additional losses like pain and suffering, where you could not before the other driver was found because you purchased a limited tort insurance policy. As was just stated, it gets more complicated.
But finding the other driver also means you may have to press charges. And you might also sue for civil penalties. Issues that the average person lacks experience with. The experienced lawyers at Joel J. Kofsky can help you should the negligent driver be discovered and they will fight to protect your rights and to ensure you get the compensation you are owed. They are experienced with personal injury and car accidents and have the experience and knowledge that can help you through this difficult time.