All car accidents are stressful, but a “hit and run” accident, which means that one of the drivers fled the scene of the accident, can be especially difficult. Victims of a hit and run may be wondering who is responsible for paying for damages to their vehicle, their medical bills, and other losses that may have occurred.
Failing to stop at the scene of the accident, render aid if necessary, and provide identifying information to law enforcement and the other drivers is known as a hit and run and is a serious crime in Virginia. This is true whether the driver who flees the scene is at fault or not at fault in the accident. People who flee the scene of a car accident can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony, which will result in fines, jail time, driver’s license suspension, financial liability, and other consequences.
Passengers may also be liable in hit and run incidents. If the driver of the vehicle fails to stop at the scene and make the report required by state code, any passengers who were present in the vehicle and are at least 16 years of age are obligated to report the incident to the police within 24 hours of the collision.
The state of Virginia is a no contact state, which means that there can be no contact between the victim and the other driver. Filing a police report and collecting evidence at the scene, such as photographs, driver and vehicle descriptions, and witness testimony, are crucial to support your claim.
In an ideal situation, the law enforcement will locate the driver who fled the scene, who will then be held criminally and civilly liable for their actions, including financial compensation for the victim’s damages. However, in many cases, the driver is not found. Like many other states, Virginia requires drivers to carry underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage (UIM), which will provide coverage for hit and run incidents with an unknown driver, as long as there is sufficient evidence to prove that it occurred.
If you’ve been the victim of a hit and run accident, taking the right actions can make the difference between receiving financial compensation from an insurance company or being left holding the bill. Avoid these common mistakes:
Mistake #1: Leaving the Scene
The only legitimate reason for leaving the scene of the accident is being taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Contact law enforcement officials immediately after an accident and wait for them to arrive. Not only is this required by the Virginia state code, but it provides the basis for an investigation into the circumstances of the accident and a police report that will be crucial to your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. If you leave the scene of the accident prematurely, you may also be charged with fleeing the scene of an accident.
Mistake #2: Waiting to Seek Medical Attention
After any accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Not only is it crucial to get a diagnosis and treatment for injuries that may not be immediately apparent, but an emergency room visit will provide a baseline for any injuries you sustained in the crash. Failing to get medical treatment in a timely fashion can provide a basis for insurance companies to reject your claim by stating that you were not actually injured in the collision.
Mistake #3: Chasing the Vehicle
Never chase or confront the vehicle that hit you because the driver may be intoxicated or aggressive. Instead, gather details such as a description of the vehicle and driver, the license plate number, bumper stickers, or other identifying information, and where the vehicle was damaged. Take photos or a video if you are able. Provide this information to law enforcement and allow them to conduct an investigation.
Mistake #4: Providing Insufficient Evidence to Support Your Claim
The success of your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit will depend on the strength of the evidence you and your personal injury attorney are able to gather. If you are physically able, ask witnesses at the scene of the accident for their contact information, including names, phone numbers, and email addresses, so that your personal injury attorney can contact them later to make a statement regarding what happened. Information from witnesses can also help law enforcement find the at-fault driver. Document as many details as you can remember. Your personal injury lawyer may also be able to gather additional evidence, such as video surveillance or phone records.
Mistake #5: Not Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
As soon as possible after your accident, consult with a personal injury attorney who has experience with car accidents. Your attorney will conduct an investigation to determine what happened, gather evidence, provide representation on your behalf to insurance companies, and help find the person who caused the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney will be invaluable to your insurance claim and will help you navigate all of your legal options, such as filing an uninsured motorist claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.