An overview of what you need to do after a hit and run accident
“Hit and run” is a broad description of many car accidents in Georgia. Hit and run accidents occur when:
1. Someone hit your vehicle in a parking lot or space while you were away or in your vehicle.
2. Someone hit your vehicle while you were driving.
3. Someone hit you while you were on your bicycle or walking.
Some hit and run accidents are minor with only minimal damage to your car. Others cause serious injuries such as those involving bicyclists or pedestrians. No matter the damage, in every hit and run case the driver has broken Georgia law by leaving the scene of an accident. Thus, a personal injury lawsuit would be possible to recover compensation for the property damage and your injuries.
Hit and run statistics in Georgia
Like pedestrian accidents, Georgia hit and run accidents are on the rise. Georgia ranks 4th in the US for the number of hit and run crashes with fatalities. In 2016, 72 people died as a result of these crashes.
Nationally, over 60% of hit and run victims killed are bicyclists and pedestrians. Furthermore, 20% of all pedestrian deaths are due to accidents where the driver flees the scene. Walking and bicycling are particularly popular in Georgia, so accidents involving these pastimes are more likely than in other states.
What to do if you’re the victim of a hit and run accident in Georgia
Accidents are a scary experience. It’s worse when someone hurts you or damages your vehicle and flees the scene. If you’re involved in an accident, there are steps you need to take in order to help catch the driver who hit you as well as preserve your ability to receive compensation. If you are the victim of a hit and run, follow these steps:
Step 2. If you’re in a vehicle and your injuries don’t seem severe or life-threatening, pull over the side of the road and away from traffic.
Step 3. Write down all the information you remember about the vehicle and the driver such as the make, model and color of the car, as well as whether the driver was a male or female. Record any other characteristics you can remember. If you remember the license plate, write down what state and county it was from. If you remember the license plate number, this is one of the most helpful pieces of information you can offer investigators.
Step 4. Once in a safe location, look around for witnesses. Ask surrounding pedestrians and onlookers what they saw and ask for their contact information if they witnessed the event.
Step 5. Take pictures of the accident scene, your injuries and the damage to your vehicle.
Step 6. Complete a police report.
Step 7. Even if you think you feel okay, injuries such as concussions and whiplash may take several days to appear. Visit the ER or at least schedule a post-accident visit with your primary care physician in order to better protect your health, as well as document your injuries.
The more information you can give the police regarding the car and driver, the shorter the search. The police are often successful at finding the driver, but your information assists the efficiency of the search.
How to avoid liability for hit and run accidents
We all make mistakes. If you accidentally hit a parked car, caused an accident or hit a bicyclist, motorist or a pedestrian, there are steps you should take to minimize your liability and avoid criminal charges.
If you hit an unattended vehicle, you should do at least some of the following:
1. Wait for the vehicle owner to return.
2. Enter surrounding businesses to see who owned the car or other vehicle.
3. Take photos of the damage you caused.
4. Talk to witnesses and get their contact information.
5. Leave a note on the windshield with your contact and insurance information if you can’t locate the vehicle’s owner.
6. Call your insurance company.
If you hit a car or pedestrian, Georgia law §40-6-270 explains that drivers must not leave the scene of any accident they cause. In order to avoid facing arrest and minimize your liability, you must:
- Give your name, address, and vehicle registration number.
- Provide your insurance information.
- Show your operator’s license if you are a commercial driver.
- Provide assistance such as calling the police and/or paramedics.
- Remain at the scene.
- Move your vehicle as far away as possible to avoid obstructing traffic.
Depending on what caused the accident, you may still be responsible for damages should a lawsuit occur. Nevertheless, by acting responsibility, you may able to avoid punitive damages and other large penalties.
Recovering compensation for hit and run accidents
If you’re able to communicate with the driver who caused your accident and they had the insurance required by Georgia law, then you will be offered a settlement amount to cover your medical bills and other expenses.
If, however, you’re hurt by an uninsured driver or you weren’t able to find the driver, your only recovery option may be to rely on your own insurance coverage. Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and uninsured motorist coverage may be able to cover some of the costs sustained while treating your injuries and repairing your car.
Lastly, there are cases where the insurance coverage just isn’t enough. Perhaps the insurance company is trying to assign you a high level of fault. Perhaps you aren’t able to get in touch with the driver. Whatever the reason, if you’re struggling to recover financially after a hit and run accident, you do have the right to take legal action. A negligence lawsuit could be filed where you can recover pain and suffering damages as well as other forms of compensation.