Driving

What to do after a hit and run: 5 important steps you need to know

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Sixty-six percent of Americans already suffer from driving anxiety over the fear of what could happen on the road, with previous traumatic car accidents topping the list of reasons why. A hit and run collision is one of the more traumatic driving experiences and can leave you feeling uneasy, unsure of what to do next.

In 2020, approximately 17% of reported car accidents involved hit and runs. If you’ve found yourself in this unfortunate situation, keep reading for what to do after a hit and run, or jump down to the infographic to learn more.

What is a hit and run?

A hit and run accident is where the at-fault party flees the scene without providing any identification or aid to other involved parties.

In many states, single-vehicle accidents can also be considered a hit and run if the driver leaves without reporting the accident. Examples of single-vehicle crashes include:

  • Hitting something on or along the roadway, like a tree or guardrail. In some states, this may also include hitting a parked vehicle in a parking lot.
  • Running off the road to avoid something else, like a pedestrian or road hazard
  • Running off the road due to the driver’s loss of control of the vehicle or distracted driving

These accidents must still be reported regardless of who is at fault. Now let’s cover what to do in a hit and run.

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Hit and run information checklist
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What to do in a hit and run

Car accidents are already stressful, and being left by yourself to deal with the situation only increases the frustration. If you’ve found yourself in this circumstance, try to remain calm and follow these steps on what to do in a hit and run.


1. Assess your safety

After being in a hit and run, the first thing to do is check yourself for any injuries and assess your safety. Once you’ve determined you’re not seriously harmed, check on the safety of your passengers.

Keep in mind sometimes shock can cause you to overlook an injury. To avoid overlooking an injury, perform a head-to-toe assessment, checking for any wounds or inhibited movement. For any serious injuries, it’s best to call 911 before attempting to move an injured person so the dispatcher can guide you on what to do until the police and ambulance arrive.

Next, determine if you can safely drive your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. If you cannot move your vehicle, get out and move to a safe place away from oncoming cars. Check your surroundings first to make sure it is safe to do so.

After you’ve gotten yourself and your passengers to safety, check the site for any other individuals involved that remain at the scene for injuries.


2. Call emergency services

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to call 911 to report a hit and run.

Don’t wait hours to report the collision to law enforcement. Even if no one is injured, you still need to record it for law and insurance purposes. Ask the officer for a copy of the report, as your insurance may request documentation.


3. Compile information

While waiting for law enforcement to arrive, document everything you remember about the other driver and their car. Some things to make a note of:

  • A description of the other vehicle, including the license plate number, make, model, color, damage, any distinctive features and the direction they headed
  • A description of the other driver, including their sex, race, hair length and color, and any distinguishing features or attire
  • The time, location and cause of the accident
  • Photos of the damage to your vehicle (look to see if the other vehicle’s paint is on yours and take a photo if so)
  • Photos of the scene

If there were any witnesses, ask them if they remember any details you might have missed. For witnesses who can contribute to a police report, be sure to collect their contact info should the police need to follow up later.


4. Inform your insurance provider

Next, contact your insurance provider to file a claim. Each insurer is different. Some require claims to be filed within 24 hours, whereas others might give you 30 days to do it. Either way, it’s best to get the process started as soon as possible so your memory is fresh.

At this point, you might be ready for a tow. Your insurer can also help you get in contact with roadside assistance.

Once you’ve filed the claim, your insurance provider will do the behind-the-scenes work to determine your coverage. We’ll cover more on how insurance handles hit and runs below.


5. Don’t leave the scene of the accident

If you've been in a hit and run with another driver, don't drive away from the scene. Do not follow the other driver in anger, putting you in a dangerous situation. Even if you’ve been in a single-car accident, you should also stay put until law enforcement arrives.

It can be tempting to go home to cool down if you’re uninjured and your vehicle is still intact. However, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime, so it’s important to remain at the scene until law enforcement says otherwise. Depending on the severity of injuries sustained, leaving the collision site can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

The one time it may be acceptable to leave the scene is if the accident occurred in a poor cell phone reception area. In most states, you can leave to call in the accident, but after, you must return to the site and wait for the police.

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How does insurance handle a hit and run?

In a typical multiple-vehicle accident, the at-fault driver's insurance company pays for injuries and property damages. In the event of a hit and run, things can get trickier because you don’t have their details to provide to your insurance provider. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be eligible for aid from your own insurer.

Car insurance requirements vary state to state, and each insurance provider handles hit and run claims differently. Typically, two types of policies might help in this situation: uninsured motorist coverage and collision coverage. Let’s get into what these policy options cover.

Uninsured motorist coverage

Almost all states require drivers to carry car insurance to cover property damage and bodily injury if they are found at fault in an accident. Even so, 13% of drivers ignore this.

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage comes into play in this scenario and also in a situation like a hit and run where you’re unsure who to file a claim against. Nearly half of U.S. states also require uninsured motorist coverage.

If you have this type of coverage, your insurance will foot the bill for your bodily injury and property damage costs from a hit and run accident.


Collision coverage

The other insurance option that might help you in a hit and run is collision coverage. Collision covers you any time your car collides with another object. With collision coverage on your policy, you’re protected regardless of who is at fault, but this typically comes with a higher deductible and only pays for vehicle damage. Collision coverage will not cover any other property damage or bodily injury.

When an accident is covered by collision, it will be listed with yourself as at fault. These accidents can stay on your driving record for up to five years and impact your insurance rate.

Hit and run statistics

It’s easy to believe something bad like a hit and run could never happen to you, but the reality is they’re more likely than you may realize.

The following hit and run statistics were collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool. The reality is, hit and runs are more common than you might think — and the results are far too often deadly.

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  • In 2020, hit and runs accounted for 2,564 fatalities, 236,433 injuries and 529,836 property damage crashes.
  • Pedestrians were victims in 1,582 fatalities and 13,658 injuries caused by hit and run crashes.
  • Hit and run accidents involving pedal-cyclists led to 7,054 injuries and 202 fatalities.
  • Motorcycles were involved in 215 deaths, 8,459 injuries and 7,935 property damage hit and runs.
  • The rate of vehicle crashes is significantly higher among teen drivers. Out of all vehicle accidents involving drivers aged 15-20, hit and runs accounted for 7% of fatalities, 19% of injuries and 18% of property damage crashes.
  • In collisions involving drivers aged 65+, hit and runs accounted for 2% of fatalities, 12% of injuries and 13% of property damage crashes.
  • Speeding was a factor in hit and runs, resulting in 485 deaths and 26,611 injuries.
  • Out of the weekdays, Friday saw the highest number of hit and runs and Wednesday saw the least.
  • Hit and runs were more prevalent on weekends, with 1,164 fatalities and 91,984 injuries occurring over the 52 weekends in 2020.
  • New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida have the highest rates of hit and runs, whereas New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota have the lowest.
  • California, Texas and Florida have the highest number of hit and run fatalities.

If you’re involved in a hit and run, the safety of everyone involved is the top priority. But it’s important to keep calm and document everything you can. This will save you time and stress later on, especially when you make a police report.

If you find yourself a victim of a hit and run, your safety and that of everyone involved are of utmost importance. Be sure to file both a police report and insurance claim as soon as possible to avoid a headache later on. For any further details, ask our agents your hit and run questions.

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Susan MeyerSenior Editorial Manager

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebra a year. She currently specializes in producing research-focused content for The Zebra's Resource Center on topics related to auto and home insurance, personal finance and smarter living in the 21st century.

Susan's work has been cited by the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm, BuzzfeedCBS, Yahoo, Entrepreneur and Business Insider.