Though we like to imagine that any reasonable driver would stop after hitting another vehicle or a pedestrian, the reality is that hit-and-run accidents are common. There have been, on average, 682,000 hit-and-run crashes each year for more than a decade, and 65 percent of people killed in those accidents were pedestrians or bicyclists.
After you’ve been hit, you’ll likely be dazed and have difficulty processing your surroundings, so it’s helpful to know how to respond, well in advance of an accident.
Steps to Take, in Order
After the accident, follow these steps, in order, to the best of your ability. It’s important to remain calm and in control throughout this process, so take a deep breath and concentrate.
- Get to safety. First things first: you need to get to safety. If you’re a pedestrian and you’re able to move, get to the sidewalk or a patch of grass as soon as you can. If you’re in a vehicle and you can move it, get it to the shoulder and put on your hazard lights to avoid the possibility of another accident. If you can’t move the vehicle, get yourself to the curb as safely as you can.
- Remember the scene. Take a moment to look at the scene as quickly as you can, especially if the car that hit you is still in eyesight. The more information you can remember, the more likely it is that the driver will be found. Take note of any sights or sounds that could serve as evidence for what happened, and if you have your phone on you, document it.
- Check for other victims. If you have any passengers with you or if there were other vehicles involved in the scene, do a thorough check to find and help other victims. If they appear severely hurt, it may be better not to move them. Otherwise, try to get them to safety as quickly as possible.
- Contact emergency services. Call 911. Even if you don’t believe you’ve been seriously hurt, it’s a good idea to get medics on the scene. Be sure to describe the scene in detail, including any specific parties who may be in need of assistance. You’ll also want to get the police on the scene, so you can work on filing the police report.
- Look for witnesses. Even if you didn’t get a clear shot of the vehicle, or if you aren’t sure exactly what happened, there’s a good chance someone in the nearby area can fill in the gaps—or corroborate your story. Take a second to look for witnesses, such as pedestrians who were passing by or other motorists who pulled over to help. These resources will be invaluable in getting justice or filing a successful insurance claim.
- Call a lawyer. Next, call a car accident lawyer. These attorneys specialize in helping people get settlements for accidents in which they weren’t at fault. In some cases, they may be able to work with law enforcement to find the responsible party and prosecute them. The earlier you can start working on a case, the better.
- File the police report. At this point, the police should be on the scene, and you’ll get to file the police report. Answer the police’s questions as best you can, and make sure you mention any evidence you were able to gather. If you have witnesses who can validate or add to your story, now’s the time to reference them.
Recovering After the Accident
Depending on how you were hit, you may be recovering from your physical injuries for weeks to months after the accident. In rare cases, you may have to deal with lifelong chronic pain. You’ll also be dealing with the mental and emotional trauma of being involved in a sudden accident in which no one took accountability.
If you can, take some time off work to mentally process what’s happened to you, and give yourself plenty of time to rest so you can recover fully. Reach out to friends, family members, or a professional therapist if you need additional support.