You're side-swiped on the highway and the other driver speeds away. Or you return to your car in the parking lot after doing some shopping, only to find a huge dent in your bumper and no note on your windshield. A hit-and-run car accident can leave you with injuries, vehicle damage, and plenty of unpaid bills.
Chances are you won't get any money from the hit-and-run driver. So you'll probably have to look to your own auto insurance or health coverage to pay your medical expenses, car repair bill, and lost wages. If you don't have the right insurance coverage, these losses might come out of your pocket.
In this article, you'll learn about what to do after a hit-and-run accident, and possible options to recover compensation for your injuries.
A hit-and-run accident happens when another driver makes physical contact with you or your vehicle and then doesn't stop to render assistance, or to share contact and insurance information. Hit-and-run accidents include vehicle-on-vehicle (including motorcycle), vehicle-on-bicycle, and vehicle-on-pedestrian collisions.
First things first. Check to see if anyone's injured. If so, call 911 and get medical help. Hit-and-run is a crime in every state, so regardless of injuries you should call the police. Don't try to chase down the fleeing driver—that's a job for law enforcement.
Once you've summoned medical help and the police, here are the things you should do after a hit-and-run accident.
Focus on gathering as much information as you can about the hit-and-run vehicle and driver, including:
While you're at the scene, you should also:
Once you've left the scene, you should:
Your recovery options are, unfortunately, limited if you never find out who caused your collision. Chances are you'll look to your own insurance policies if you have available coverage. Otherwise, you could end up being out of pocket for your losses.
Here are your options:
The police will do what they can to track down the hit-and-run driver. And because today almost everyone carries a camera in their pocket, there's a fair chance that the bad actor will be brought to justice. But don't get your hopes up. Lots of hit-and-run accidents go unsolved.
If the police do catch the driver, then you can file an insurance claim—if the driver was insured—or a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries. Here again, don't get your hopes up. What are the odds that your hit-and-run driver carried auto liability coverage as required by law? Perhaps not great, but it's worth looking into if the driver is caught.
Should you file a lawsuit against the hit-and-run driver? Before you rush to the courthouse, think it through carefully. (This is one of many good issues to discuss with a lawyer.) Odds are that the driver is what lawyers call "judgment proof," meaning that they have no insurance and no money or other assets you can seize to collect any judgment you might get. If that's the case, you could be throwing "good money after bad" and digging yourself into a deeper financial hole.
Your best chance at recovery might be your own insurance coverage, if you have it. The possibilities include your:
If you're in an accident with a hit-and-run driver, uninsured motorist coverage (UM) might be one way to get compensation for your personal injuries and auto repair costs, if you have this coverage. Most often, a hit-and-run driver who can't be found is treated as an uninsured motorist.
Personal injury protection coverage (PIP) is a type of no-fault insurance. It pays the medical expenses and lost wages for the insured driver (and all other covered persons) after a car accident, regardless of who caused the crash. If you live in a no-fault state you should have this coverage. It's optional coverage in some states that aren't no-fault states.
Medical payments coverage (MedPay), like PIP, is another kind of no-fault insurance. It will pay the medical expenses of any covered person after a wreck, no matter who was to blame for the collision. MedPay isn't required in most states, but you can buy it as an add-on to other insurance coverages.
Collision coverage pays the cost to repair or replace your car after an accident, even if you were at fault. If you finance the purchase or lease of a car, the lender will require this coverage. Otherwise, it's typically optional.
If you have a health insurance policy, you can use it to pay for hit-and-run medical expenses that aren't otherwise insured. You'll be out-of-pocket for your health insurance deductible, but you can cover that with PIP or MedPay if you have one of those coverages.
Every state has a crime victim compensation board. The board administers a fund that's available to help victims of violent crime pay crime-related expenses not covered by insurance or other government benefits. Victims of drunk drivers and the families of homicide victims are among those who can apply for assistance.
Specific requirements and application procedures vary from state to state. Check your state's page to see if you're eligible for help.
If you can't recover from the hit-and-run driver, don't have available insurance, and aren't able to recover from a crime victim compensation fund, you're probably out of luck. But before you give up, consider these alternatives:
If you've been the victim of a hit-and-run driver, you're likely to feel angry, frustrated, and hopeless. Those are understandable reactions to your situation. The prospect of suing the other driver or chasing down possible insurance coverage might seem overwhelming, particularly if you're injured.
An experienced car accident lawyer might be able to help. This is someone who's dealt with hit-and-run claims like yours and who knows how to track down possible sources of recovery. Look for a lawyer who will accept your case on a contingency basis. This means the lawyer won't charge you by the hour but will take a percentage (usually between 25% and 40%) of any settlement or judgment you receive.
Finally, if you want help finding crime-victim or similar resources, look into getting free or low-cost legal help.