No matter the situation, it’s stressful to be in a car crash. It’s even more nerve-wracking if the other driver refuses to stop. In a hit-and-run, you’re left all alone with all of the damage—and if you can’t find the other driver—the cost.
A hit-and-run is defined as a collision where at least one driver leaves the scene without sharing information or offering help. In most states, this is against the law, but it happens more often than you think- every 43 seconds someone is the victim of a hit-and-run. If there’s damage to your car, a hit-and-run could be a misdemeanor but if there’s also injury, it could be a felony.
So what do you do if a hit-and-run happens to you?
Step #1: Safety comes first. Check for injuries and that you’re in a safe location.
If you’re hurt and need immediate medical attention, call 9-1-1. If your car is in a dangerous location, and could be hit again, move it out of harm’s way.
Step #2: Look for a witness.
Look for a witness. If witnesses are nearby, ask if they’d make a statement. Take their contact information to share with police. (This is good advice for any type of accident.)
Step #3: Write down as much information as you can. Take photos.
Take a moment and write down what you remember about the accident, including the most important thing—the license plate number if you saw it. That will help the police to locate the vehicle. Also include information about the other car, such as the vehicle’s make and model, color, and direction of travel. If you saw who was driving, include a description of that person. Then, take photos of the damage to your car and the place where the accident occurred.
Step #4: Stay where you are and call the police.
In some states, it’s legally required to call the police. You’ll want to do so even if it’s not and even if the damage wasn’t serious. The police need to get out there immediately to make a report from the scene of the accident so that they can help to track down the other driver. In addition, your insurance provider will likely ask for a copy of the police report. Police reports document any physical evidence such as tire marks as well as any witness statements.
Step #5: Call your auto insurer.
Let your insurer know about the accident and file a claim. Calling your insurance company will allow you to find out coverages available, limits, and deductibles. If you don’t have a body shop, they can often refer you to one in your area. At California Casualty, we call these “GRN’s” – Guaranteed Repair Network. These approved independent facilities meet the company’s strict customer service and quality standards. Your insurer will let you know about the repair process and will share information on whether your policy covers a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired.
Step #6: If you need a tow, call roadside assistance.
If your car is damaged to the point where it cannot be driven, have it towed to your body shop.
Know your towing limits. Some coverage will take your car to the nearest place of repair. You may have to pay out-of-pocket if you to tow your car further. Finally, before any work can be done to repair your car, you will want to verify the process with your insurance company.
Who pays for repairs from a hit-and-run?
If you’re able to locate the other driver and he/she is insured, you will be able to file a claim with the driver’s insurance company. If that’s not the case, you have a couple of options. These vary by state and are also determined by how your insurance company handles hit-and-run accidents.
Your collision insurance kicks in if you don’t have underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. If your car is totaled, collision coverage offers either “actual cash value” for your vehicle or the amount necessary to repair or replace the vehicle with another of similar kind and quality—subject to the deductible. There are certain cases where the deductible could be waived; check with your insurer. Collision applies both to accidents with other drivers and collisions with objects such as a fence or mailbox. It also covers vehicle rollovers. Unlike liability insurance, collision coverage is not usually required—unless you’re leasing a car or paying off a loan on a vehicle. However, it may be good to have, especially in the event of a hit-and-run.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage
One reason that a driver might run from the scene of an accident is if he or she does not have car insurance. If that’s the case, even if the police identify the driver, you cannot file a claim with his/her insurance company. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage, you can use that to pay for repairs. These are optional coverages in the majority of states. In some states, you are not allowed to carry collision and UMPD at the same time. Also, sometimes UMPD has a policy maximum, or cap on the amount it will pay. If you have UMPD/UIMPD, and it isn’t enough to cover the total cost of your car, your own collision coverage will help.
Having the right coverage is important for protecting your vehicle and keeping you from having to pay thousands in the event of an accident that is not your fault. Schedule an annual review with your insurer to make sure you are fully protected. Then, stay on top of your coverage by managing your account online.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.