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How to Handle a Hit-and-Run Car Accident

Written by Linda Rey on December 1, 2011 in Insurance  |   18 comments

You always hope that there are no injuries in the event of a car accident. In addition, there are always a lot of emotions that can exacerbate the situation. So what happens if you’re a victim in a hit-and-run car accident? It could be absolutely…

hit and run car accidentYou always hope that there are no injuries in the event of a car accident. In addition, there are always a lot of emotions that can exacerbate the situation. So what happens if you’re a victim in a hit-and-run car accident? It could be absolutely debilitating—physically and emotionally.

The first thing to do after any accident is to see if anyone is hurt or needs medical attention. After any medical issues have been addressed, you can deal with the accident report and insurance claim.

What information can you gather at the scene of the car accident?

Do not chase after the other vehicle. This could be dangerous, and it’s better to let the professionals take care of the situation. If you are able to secure the vehicle’s license plate information (even just a part of it), you can add it to the accident report. You should also add as detailed of a description as possible of the vehicle that drove away from the scene of the car accident.

If there are witnesses to the scene, or if there were other people in your car at the time of the accident, ask if they remember more of the license plate or can provide a better description than you can. You may be more upset than the witnesses or bystanders, and they may be able to provide more accurate information to the authorities. The more information you can give to the police, the better.

Steps to take in an accident when the other driver has disappeared

  1. File a police report. The police need to have all the information on record to assist in finding the guilty party in the car accident. It’s sad, but there is so much fraud in our society that the insurance company must take every precaution to determine if the claim is legitimate. A police report is a sworn statement that the insurance company will take very seriously.
  2. Report the incident to your insurance company and to your agent.

Bear in mind that the definition of a hit-and-run accident and the coinciding penalty differ by state.

How to file a claim when the driver at fault fled the accident scene

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you against both financial and non-financial losses sustained as a result of an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver.

Financial losses that may be incurred by the victim of a hit-and-run car accident include medical expenses and lost wages. This applies to you as a driver or a pedestrian, as well as to other passengers in your car or to other people driving your car with your permission.

Non-financial damages can be subjective, but you are still entitled to financial compensation according to the law. These types of damages include the loss of ability to engage in activities due to injuries, pain, and suffering.

A warning about car accidents and hit-and-run drivers

A friend of mind was out on the town with friends when a car hit him as he was crossing the street. The drunk driver tried to leave the scene of the accident, but there were enough witnesses with information to find the driver—a teenage driver, driving his parent’s car.

My friend was in a coma for a very long time, but he was lucky and recovered. Even today he’s not back to 100 percent, and he will always have compromised mobility and need physical therapy.

He was extremely lucky in that he had sufficient insurance and was compensated enough to satisfy his new lifestyle and medical needs.

Not everyone has the coverage my friend did. Don’t wait until you’re facing a worst-case scenario. Call your agent and make sure you have underinsured/uninsured driver coverage—even if state law does not mandate it.

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Linda Rey is a licensed insurance agent at Rey Insurance with a broad spectrum of expertise in life, accident, health, property and casualty insurance as well as retirement planning and college funding strategies.

Follow Linda on Twitter.

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. Elvin Aycock, PE says:

    Last summer I was rear-ended by a truck. The accident happened on the Interstate during rush hour. Four lanes of vehicles were braking hard and slowing to a rapid stop. The driver behind me was unable to stop because he did not react in time to stop. He was distracted or just not as alert as the other drivers that made a safe stop. He hit his brakes and locked his wheels, but it too late. If he had braked sooner, he could have avoided the collision into the rear of my car.

    The driver pulled over to the shoulder of the road. We called the police and exchanged information. He was given a traffic violation.

    The other driver and his passenger was not injured. My back was injured and I had to receive treatment.

    You are so correct about emotions that surface at such a time. I remember being so upset. The “what ifs” ran through my mind. What if, someone had been seriously injured or killed? What if, the other driver has not slowed at all and plowed into me?

    My emotional state immediately after the accident surprised me. It surprises me, even today. I am a reconstruction engineer and I reconstruction traffic accident all the time. I see evident of horrible accidents and know that drivers and passengers in those vehicles were injured and killed. I would have thought I would have been mentally prepared for an accident.

    Not so.

    If my accident had been a hit-and-run, I think I would have been even more upset. The driver that hit me did the right thing. He stopped and shared his information with me.

    In my work I get to hear the drivers’ stories about their speed. I reconstruct the accident and determine the true speed they were traveling at the time of the collision. Black Boxes (Event Data Recorders) are installed in vehicles and provide valuable information for reconstruction of vehicle accidents.

    They record five seconds of data prior to a collision such as speed, braking, seat belt use and throttle positions.

    This information is great for drivers that are within the speed limit but bad for the driver traveling above the speed limit.

    The insurance companies I work for want to know the facts. The event data recorder helps provide facts about a vehicle collision.

    • EFX Finance Blog Editor, JF says:

      @Elvin – So sorry to hear about your accident; you were very lucky in your situation. Thanks for reading and commenting. We hope to hear from you on the blog again soon

  2. Su says:

    So, I was also involved in a similar accident as Elvin described. Now, I am not sure how to deal with this person who does not have an insurance and also a license. My insurance is only for liabilities and does not cover anything else. What do I do now? I am in Lexington, Kentucky.

    • LINDA REY says:

      Su, I cannot speak to Kentucky state insurance law by way of what is mandated; but check your policy and confer with your broker if your liability insurance coverage includes “Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist” coverage. This would provide relief where this is none with the other party. If it is not mandated, you should see if you can consider it as an endorsement to the policy to ensure you have the protection.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The most important thing to do once you’ve been involved in a car accident is to remember in detail everything that has happened during the incident, and to gather all the important information you need with the other party. If the accident caused a serious damage with your car, then it is time to hire a lawyer or a company which can take care of the car insurance. My friend once had an accident and she hired a company who provided her with auto insurance in Memphis . Everything worked out well, in all fairness.

  4. JD says:

    I was recently in a hit and run accident slightly different from the accidents mentioned above. However, everything happened so fast that I was unable to get the license plate. As I looked down to get my phone to get their information, the driver zoomed off ridiculously fast. They disappeared into some nearby parking lots. Does anyone know any forums or websites where I can provide a description of the car and driver for my area (Dallas)? Please, all other options have been exhausted.

  5. karaokegirl81 says:

    I was just a victim last night of a hit and run. My car had minor damage on the side. My fiancé was in the passenger’s seat. After the car hit my car he fled the scene. I drove a little ways to get out of traffic (happened as I was about to make a left turn) and as i stopped a witness came and asked if we wanted them to call the cops. My fiancé was adament about the cops being called. The lady drove off and we drove a few miles passed the vehicle after seeing that they had pulled over. My fiancé got out of the car and as he was heading back to the other car they drove off again.
    This whole time I kept thinking about the sound of the crash. And feel a little paranoid about driving. No one was hurt (in my car anyway). I thank God that we are not injured. And hope we don’t start hurting later on.

  6. Paul B. says:

    so Im driving onto a merging lane, me being in the primary lane a white Subaru sti drives up on the side were the two lanes merge his in the lane warning to merge, the driver cuts me off at a high rate of speed I swerve to avoid collision my car hits a cement wall spins and hits two concrete barriers the other driver speeds off. Multiple witnesses pulled over and said the saw what the Subaru did (speeding, reckless driving, causing serious accident)and they were at fault. I called the police filed a report, but I did not get there license plate number. What can I do I don’t have full coverage? The cop says it will take days to file the report, and my car is totaled its a rare Supra I hand rebuilt for years now its gone, and the guilty party just cruises off? Seems like if you cant get a plate or ID there is no legal recourse, is this true? I will pay to find them.

  7. Megan E. says:

    This is a great article for anyone who has experienced a hit and run. I definitely agree that immediately filing a police report is the most important thing you can do. If you don’t alert the police, there’s really no way anyone can help you. Of course, after telling the police, you’ll want to report the incident to your insurance company and to your agent. That way you’ll be able to see if your insurance can cover some of the damage.
    Megan |

    • EFX Moderator says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Megan. Thanks for posting.

    • Steve says:

      So I have been in a similar situation, I was ticketed for leaving the scene, will my insurance cover the damge to my truck? I caused the accident. I have full coverage.

      • EFX Moderator says:

        Steve, This sounds like it could be a question for your insurer. Good luck fixing your truck.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Do you think I should get an attorney? It is in Arizona and it is a misdemeanor.

  9. rhe53 says:

    We live in SE Columbus, Ohio. Our daughter was driving home from work at 2am this morning, when she was involved in an accident less than 3/4 mile from home. She was in the right lane, passing a Rally’s when, a green Buick in the left lane tried to turn into the Rally’s and sideswiped her Mazda. She and the woman driving the Buick both stopped and got out of their vehicles, then the other woman got back into her car, backed up a bit, and took off.

    Daughter got the license plate number and called the police (who took twenty-five minutes to arrive). They told her she got the wrong plate number and were not very helpful in general. I did an online check of the license plate number, which is supposed to be on a 2002 Ford Ranger. Apparently, it is not uncommon for people to drive stolen cars with stolen plates.

    Daughter called her insurance company (Progressive) when she got home. She has to pay $500 deductible to get her car repaired and her insurance payments will likely go up… She already pays $300 per month and, as a full-time student, cannot afford the added expense.

    Short of having a gun to shoot the woman as she drove away (I am not a handgun advocate), is there any LEGAL way Daughter may have prevented this person from driving off?

  10. Skf77 says:

    Hello my wife was involved in an accident where the other driver was at fault and also left the scene. About 2 hrs later still on the side of the freeway the officer pulled over a vehicle and called the officer with my wife that it was the type of vehicle that was explained by my wife and they are confessing to be at fault. It was a teenager in his faters car.

    The car is now claimed to be a total loss. I owe more than what they are offering me. And I know that I have an obligation. But can I take them to court to have them pay for what else is owed to my loan? We are in such an hardship I just cant afford to pay for something I dont have.

  11. Sophiadevanny B. says:

    Thanks for your kind words. The article is helpfull and love to hear more.

  12. Mom needs help says:

    I broke down on side of interstate because my serpentine belt broke and before I could even get out of the car safely, a semi hit and ran totalling my car. It pushed my vehicle foward near the edge of interstate. I was so scared another person would hit it and me. I walked far away trying to call for help but had no cell reception and battery was dead. A man stopped to help me that had a car tow heading to pick up a car he bought. He loaded my vehicle up for me to move it off of toad. I was in a state where I knew nobody except my ex husband’s friends and family so nobody to help me of course. The guy who stopped to help asked if he could take me somewhere so we took car to a lot I knew and I was dropped at home. I called to report claim next morning as it was extremely late and I was upset. Now I’m being asked by my insurance company to do a sworn statement because red flags popped up in there system that this could be fraud. I have an attorney but I am scared because I have nothing to go on since it was hit and run and no witnesses. I couldn’t call cops and the man who helped me just whisked me and car away . I know he was only trying to help. I have never been through an accident like this so I really don’t understand what to do and what not to do. I am scared I will be charged with fraud or somthing crazy because of this. I did get hurt and I’m in physical therapy and facing back surgery from it. I am seriously stressed over this, I’m a single mom of 2 now trying to recover from my feelings on divorce and then this happens. Any advice? Can I go to prison if they don’t believe me, I have read horrible stories on Internet about this type of situation but different scenarios and I’m scared to death.

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