Being involved in a car accident is always a scary and stressful experience. When it’s a hit and run accident, it’s even more overwhelming, since you may not have a clear course of action. And if you’re in the middle of traveling to another part of the country or even another country altogether, you may be at a total loss on what to do next.
Here’s what you should do.
The most important thing you can do is try to remain calm. After an accident, your adrenaline will likely be surging, and you’ll feel a rush of different emotions that will affect your decision making. If you remain calm, you’ll be able to think through your next actions rationally, and you’ll be much more likely to follow the proper procedures.
Don’t Pursue: Get to Safety
You may be tempted to follow the offending driver if you see them flee the scene, especially if your vehicle is still in decent condition. While this may seem like the best course of action to mete out justice, especially in the heat of the moment, it’s almost always a bad idea. Chances are, you will not be successful in your pursuit, and you and the other driver may end up causing another, more serious accident in the course of this.
Instead, get yourself to safety as quickly as possible, and try to clear the scene for other drivers. The best course of action is one that limits further damage and harm.
Contact Emergency Services
If you or anyone else has been injured in the accident, you’ll want to contact emergency services. If you’re anywhere in the United States, you can dial 911 to get a dispatcher, and summon an ambulance, police officer, and/or other emergency responders. In other countries, there will likely be one or more emergency numbers you can dial; when traveling, make sure you familiarize yourself with these numbers, and store them in your phone for quick use.
If you want any chance of getting compensation or seeing justice for this hit and run accident, you’ll need to gather whatever information you can. If the other driver has fled the scene, you’ll need to remember as much information about them and their vehicle as you can; for example, make a mental note of the make and model of the vehicle, the color of the vehicle, and the license plate number (if it has one). Take note of the characteristics of the driver as well, including their gender, age, and distinctive features.
You’ll also want to take photos and videos of the scene, including any points of damage that you notice. If you can get the fleeing driver on video, you may stand a good chance of eventually catching them. If you notice other people who have witnessed the accident, talk to them and see if they’d be willing to make a statement. If you don’t speak the local language, try to communicate in other ways, such as with gestures.
File an Official Report
It’s a good idea to file an official report about the accident, in whichever method is dictated by local law enforcement. Usually, this means contacting the police, answering their questions, and providing as many details as possible. If you take legal action, this will serve as the official record of how the accident occurred, so make sure you review the report before it’s finalized. If you don’t speak the language, consider contacting a translator so you can make sure the accident is reported properly.
Learn More About Local Laws
Hit and run accidents are treated differently in different areas of the country and around the world. In the United States, the exact definition of a “hit and run” accident varies from state to state, and penalties vary even more. For example, in Virginia, a hit and run accident is considered a felony only if the crash causes an extent of damages above a certain dollar amount, but in California, the classification of the crime varies based on the type of damage done. Familiarize yourself with local laws to get a better understanding of what could happen next.
Contact a Lawyer
No matter what, it’s a good idea to contact a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer will have a much better understanding of hit and run laws in the area of the crash, and will be able to provide you with direction on what to do next.
Hit and run accidents vary in rarity based on geographic location. Unfortunately, they’re both common and hard to solve even in developed areas of the world. Hopefully, you’ll never have to experience one, but if you do, you’ll know what to do.