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.
Although hit and runs are rare (making up 11.7 percent of all crashes in 2015), they are more common in Georgia than almost every other state (bar Florida, California, and Illinois). In 2016, there were 72 hit and runs in Georgia involving at least one fatality.
When the other driver leaves, they also change the way you report the accident. 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 (whether driving or in parked), another type of property, a cyclist, or a person and 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.
If you don’t stop and there was minimal damage or injuries, the police can charge you with a misdemeanor. Where another person is severely injured or killed, then a hit-and-run incident becomes a felony.
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 or things become unclear later. If you remember any of the license plate number, keep a note of it, too. It will make it much easier to find the car later, especially if there’s no traffic cameras near the scene.
Other things to no include:
- Location of the accident
- 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 – who you must call if the other driver fled.
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, Georgia drivers don’t benefit from the products available in other states. Elsewhere you would rely on your uninsured motorist property damage coverage or collision coverage to pay for the repairs. And this is true if you get in a car accident in Atlanta and the other person stays on the scene and is uninsured.
However, these insurance products don’t usually cover hit-and-run incidents in Georgia. (They also don’t cover hit-and-runs in other high incidence states like California and Illinois).
If your insurance company denies your claim, then your best hope relies on 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 pursue a civil case against them.
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.
Even when an accident is just that – an accident – the decision to leave the scene is a crime. It’s also deliberate, even if 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 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.
Were You Involved in a Hit and Run?
Do you know how to report 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 auto accident lawyer.
Click here to learn more about whether a filing a personal injury lawsuit is the right thing to do.
Seth Bader is an Auto accident, Workers Compensation and Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Atlanta, Rome, Savannah, Norcross, Carrollton, Georgia. He graduated from Florida State University College of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years. Seth Bader believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.