February 22, 2021
A hit-and-run accident happens in the blink of an eye and leaves victims feeling defenseless and confused. You now have damage to your vehicle and maybe even some bodily injuries, but the person at fault is no longer in sight to be held accountable for their recklessness. What are the next steps? In this article, we’ll discuss what you should do if you’re ever the victim in a hit-and-run accident so you will be prepared if this disaster strikes.
First, let’s define what constitutes a hit-and-run accident. In most states, drivers are legally obligated to stop if they get into an accident on a public road in order to help anyone who may have been injured until first responders arrive. They should also try to iron out the details of the incident with everyone involved.
With that said, a hit-and-run is when someone causes a motor accident and flees the scene without offering aid or providing contact or insurance information. Hit-and-run accidents are considered misdemeanor crimes — unless someone has been injured, in which case it is then classified as a felony.
#1: Remain calm, call the police, and tend to injuries
After the perpetrator has fled the scene, try to remain calm. Your fight-or-flight instinct will likely kick in, so take deep breaths to calm yourself. You should stay exactly where you are and call the police immediately and report the hit and run, whether you’ve been in a small fender bender or a major crash involving multiple vehicles. Before getting out of your car, check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If anyone is injured, do what you can to tend to them until help arrives.
Once you know that everyone else is okay, you can proceed to get out and speak to other victims at the scene, if any. If there were witnesses who stopped to render their help, keep them there to provide their statements to law enforcement. Once the police arrive, they will fill out an accident report and facilitate the exchange of information.
#2: Gather information about the perpetrator
When your veins are pumping with adrenaline, it’s easy to forget pieces of information. That’s why the next thing you should do immediately is write down as much information as you can about the perpetrator and the accident while the details are still fresh in your head.
The more people involved in the accident, the easier it will be to gather information about the person who caused it. So, work with other victims and witnesses to talk about what each of you saw. The different perspectives may paint a more complete picture of the person and the incident. Try to recall as many details as you can about the perpetrator and the circumstances of the accident, including:
#3: Get witness statements and contact information
Witness statements are very valuable in hit-and-run cases. Generally, the more witnesses you have to confirm your side of the story, the better off you will be. They can confirm who was at fault and corroborate your story. If witnesses can confirm that you were not at fault, this will ensure that you don’t have to pay out of pocket for the damage to your vehicle.
When speaking to witnesses, gather their names and contact details (including full name, address, and phone number), and make sure they provide their statement to the police officer at the scene so the information gathered is sufficient and legally admissible.
#1: Don’t pursue the perpetrator when they leave the scene
When someone flees after causing physical and financial damage to your life, it can be tempting to pursue them to make sure they’re held accountable. Do not do this after a hit and run. Leaving the scene of the accident compromises the evidence, and it could be interpreted as guilt on your part. You may even discover the person you’re chasing to have a violent temperament, which puts you in dangerous circumstances that could lead to a second accident. What’s worse, if you leave, your witnesses may take the opportunity to leave as well.
#2: Don’t delay filing an insurance claim or a police report
Oregon and Washington have statutes of limitations for car accident lawsuits, which means there are strict limits on the timeframe in which you can file a lawsuit. You have two years in Oregon and three years in Washington to file your claim. When doing so, it’s wise to seek guidance from a car accident attorney of repute, who will help you obtain fair compensation.
Oregon and Washington also have strict penalties for those who are found guilty of committing a hit-and-run crime. If nobody was injured, the perpetrator will receive a Class A Misdemeanor charge in the state of Oregon, punishable by a year in jail and a fine of $6,250. In Portland, hit-and-run accidents are considered a felony for the one who fled the scene. In Washington, hit-and-run accidents are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. These charges could also increase auto insurance costs for the perpetrator.
If you become the victim of a hit-and-run accident, don’t wait to file your hit-and-run insurance claim, as your car insurance policy may cover some of the expenses for damage incurred. Depending on your policy, your place of residence, and the circumstances of the accident, your vehicle damages, bodily injuries, and/or medical bills may be covered to some extent. These coverages are usually limited, which means you will have to pay out of pocket for the expenses that fall outside of your policy’s coverage.Contact Us