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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

What to do after a hit-and-run accident

A vehicle accident is extremely stressful, and the stress increases exponentially when the other driver leaves the scene. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that about 11 percent of all vehicle crashes annually involve a driver who leaves the scene. For many people, the first instinct is to chase the other car, but that is exactly the wrong thing to do after a hit-and-run accident. The best thing you can do is to remain as calm as possible while you take care of yourself.

Safety first

Your safety and that of your passengers should be the first concern. If you can move your vehicle to a safer spot, then do so. Call 911 for medical assistance before worrying about anything else. If you have emergency triangles or flashes, set them out.

No injuries? Notify law enforcement anyway

Do not leave the scene of an accident, even if you were not at fault. This could make the situation worse for you. Call law enforcement to make a report. This documentation goes a long way toward moving your claim through your insurance company.

Gather evidence

Take pictures using your smartphone. Get pictures of the road conditions, street signs, construction in the area, weather and your car's damage. Take down the names and addresses of any witnesses. If you can remember the license plate, make and model of the car, write it down. The trauma of the accident could cause you to forget it easily.

Fake information

Another type of hit-and-run accident is one in which the driver does stop and provide information. Later, when you try to contact the other driver, you, or your insurance company, find that the information was false. This is another reason you should always call law enforcement after any type of accident. Do not let the other driver off the hook until you know that your damages are very small.

Contact your insurance company

Whether your insurance company will cover your claim depends on your own insurance policy. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, it is more likely that your claim will be processed. If law enforcement does catch the other driver, you might get reimbursed, but you might not.

Holding the other driver responsible

Unfortunately, the reality is that most people flee the scene of an auto accident because they do not have a proper license or proper insurance. Even though motorists are required to have auto insurance in Washington, many do not. However, they may have other assets which can be leveraged to hold them accountable. When you talk to an attorney about your situation, you can make better decisions as to how proceed.

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