What is a Hit-and-Run Accident?
A hit-and-run accident is any crash involving a driver who leaves the scene before they can be identified. Some hit-and-runs are done without the victim even being there, like when a driver scrapes into the side of a parked car and leaves without leaving behind a note. In other situations, a driver gets into a car accident, checks to see if everyone is okay, and then goes before sharing their identifying information. In more cases, the hit-and-run driver still causes a crash and never stops at all, putting everyone else in a complex and unfair situation.
When a driver cannot be identified after causing or being in a crash, it is most often the police’s responsibility to try to find the driver. This is because leaving any crash scene before allowing others to identify you is a crime in all states.
How Often are Hit-and-Run Drivers Caught?
But how successful are the police in tracking down hit-and-run drivers? Unfortunately, the situation is not in favor of accident victims. While getting definitive data is difficult due to reporting systems that often do not designate a hit-and-run from other types of accidents, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) reported that it could not catch 92% of hit-and-run drivers in 2018. This percentage can be assumed to be an average across the board, so 1-in-10 hit-and-run drivers will be caught eventually.
How Police Investigate Hit-and-Run Cases
During a hit-and-run investigation, the responding officer will survey the scene. They will also gather witness and victim statements and collect any evidence from the accident.
Evidence collected in hit-and-run investigations includes:
- Pictures of the scene
- Brake marks
- Video recordings
- Broken glass
- Paint left on the damaged vehicle
After collecting evidence, the officer submits their report to the DMV and the station.
How Can You Help a Hit-and-Run Investigation?
The best chances to solve a hit-and-run accident begin with collecting as much evidence as you can immediately after your accident. Tangible evidence like photographs or video footage is the best if you can get it.
If you do not have a dashcam installed in your car, then it is advised you get one as soon as possible. Dashcams can be programmed to constantly record while you drive, significantly increasing the chances of capturing video evidence of any drivers who crash into you. If you do not have a dashcam, reach for your smartphone and start taking pictures of the other car as soon as possible after a collision. Often, hit-and-run drivers will linger for a minute while they determine if they are okay. During this time, snapping a single picture of their license plate could provide what the police need to know to catch them later.
Once the police catch a driver, they will have to answer for their crimes through the criminal justice system. But you will also get the chance to get insurance information from them and file a claim as you would after any crash.
Don’t Forget Your Insurance
Being hurt by a hit-and-run driver is not ideal, but it is not a dealbreaker when getting compensation for your injuries and damages. If you have uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage as part of your insurance policy, your insurer should provide your damages up to your policy cap. Hit-and-run drivers are effectively the same as uninsured motorists, so that this policy can apply to these types of accidents. You should add UM/UIM coverage to your policy as soon as possible, just as with buying and installing a dashcam.
Your insurance company will probably not be happy to pay for the damages that an unidentified driver did. You should expect some pushback and consider working with a car accident lawyer to file your claim.
Drivers who have been hurt in a hit-and-run accident in Woodbridge can work with Palmisano & Goodman, P.A., to get their claim started. Dial (732) 709-4400 for more information about our legal services.