When a car crash happens, everyone is required by law to stay put. In fact, the first step after any traffic accident is to call the police and await their arrival. The responding officer(s) can facilitate the exchange of insurance information and other important details between you and the other parties.
But what happens if the driver who caused the crash decides to flee the scene before you get their information?
Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents are hardly uncommon. In fact, they’re on the rise, both here in New York and nationwide.
Do you know how you would respond if a driver were to hit you and then just keep on going? Here are six steps to take after a hit-and-run accident in New York.
1. Call 911
If everyone stays at the scene — and if no one is hurt — it’s usually okay to call the local police line instead of 911.
Hit-run-accidents are a different story. Hitting and running is a crime, and the fleeing driver may be dangerous. It’s best to call 911 and inform them right away.
If you or anyone at the scene is injured, focus on getting critical medical attention first. Call 911 and report the injury, then tell them about the hit-and-run.
2. Don’t Try to Chase the Hit-and-Run Driver
Seeing a negligent driver flout the law and speed away can evoke a whole range of emotions. You might feel angry, indignant, panicked, or overwhelmed.
Take a deep breath. Stay calm. Cooperate with law enforcement and follow their instructions.
You should not under any circumstances attempt to pursue the hit-and-run driver, even if that means he or she will get away. Let the police worry about catching them. Let your lawyer worry about how you’ll get the compensation you might need (more on that in a moment).
3. Take Notes ASAP
The more information you can give law enforcement about the hit-and-run driver, the better. Pull out a pad of paper (or your smartphone) and jot down every detail you can remember as soon as possible.
You might be surprised by how quickly you can forget important or vivid details soon after an accident. Car crashes can have a “fog of war” effect. That’s especially true in hit-and-run accidents, which only add to the trauma of the whole experience. Victims often recall the crash as a hazy blur.
Making contemporaneous notes can guard against memory loss and may even help to improve your recall later on.
4. Talk to Witnesses
People in the area might have observed important details about the hit-and-run driver that escaped your notice. Passersby and people in other cars have a different vantage point than you do, and if they weren’t involved in the accident, they might also have a much clearer state of mind.
Just as importantly, witnesses might be able to testify as to how the accident happened and who caused it. This can be important if an insurance company later accuses you of causing the crash yourself (which may happen, for example, if the hit-and-run driver is caught and your injuries are serious enough to step outside of New York’s no-fault car insurance rules).
Witnesses might even have photographs or video footage of the accident on their smartphones. That’s why reaching out to witnesses is one of the most important steps to take after a hit-and-run accident in New York.
5. Call Your Insurance Company
Regardless of who caused the crash, your own car insurance policy probably includes language requiring you to provide timely notice of any accident to your insurance provider. This requirement typically applies to hit-and-run accidents as well.
Don’t say more than you need to. Be careful to avoid any statements implying that you did something wrong or were at fault for the crash.
6. Contact a Lawyer
Never assume that you don’t have legal options after a hit-and-run accident in New York. You do have rights, and you may have more options than you realize for pursuing a claim for the compensation you deserve. The choices available to you will depend on the specific circumstances of your accident. An experienced car accident lawyer at O’Connor & Partners can help you understand your options.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to handle a complex hit-and-run injury claim on your own. Scheduling a free consultation with a lawyer is one of the most important steps to take after a hit-and-run accident in New York.
Free & Confidential Consultation with a New York Auto Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured by a hit-and-run driver in New York, we encourage you to contact our office as soon as possible.
O’Connor & Partners is a personal injury law firm based in Kingston, NY and providing legal services across the state, including: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
We fight hard to maximize compensation for injured drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in New York hit-and-run accidents. We are proud to offer confidential, no-cost, no-obligation claim consultations to hit-and-run victims throughout the state.
If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.