Motor vehicle accidents are never a pleasant experience, but they can reach a whole new level of frustration and difficulty should the other driver decide to leave the scene of the collision. Drivers involved in a collision in which a person has been injured or property damaged are legally required to return to the scene of the accident as soon, and as safely, as they can.
But in the event that they shirk their legal duty, you will need help in pursuing the compensation you deserve. Our New Jersey car accident attorneys thrive on assisting you and advocating on your behalf to get you the care you need.
What should I do if the person that hit me leaves the scene?
One of the first things you should do after any car accident is to consult a lawyer, but when a driver flees the scene there are a couple of things you should prioritize:
Call The Authorities
Under New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 39:4-129, leaving the scene of a collision is a criminal act that carries a fine and the potential for jail time. Notifying the police of a hit and run accident as soon as possible can give them the time they need to identify the person that hit you and bring them to justice. Be sure to provide them as much detail as you can remember. Things like the car’s model and color, the driver’s appearance, or what direction they were heading can all prove crucial to finding the person that hurt you – no matter how inconsequential the detail seemed at the time.
Your cellphone is your best friend. Take photos of where your vehicle was damaged, the scene of the collision, talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get their contact information or record them recounting the details of the collision. Many studies have shown that eyewitness testimony is often unreliable. You can counteract the failings of memory by documenting as much as you possibly can as soon after the collision as you safely are able to. When it comes to trial, these details can be pivotal in making sure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Get Medical Care
This should be the number one thing on the list, as getting immediate medical care can be the difference between years of pain and therapy and a full and swift recovery. But when the other driver leaves the scene, you will likely have to delay treatment for non-life-threatening injuries for a little while.
That said, as soon as you have notified the authorities and recorded as many details of the collision as you can, make sure to get proper medical care. And just because you don’t feel anything at the moment doesn’t mean you should delay care further. Many injuries are not immediately apparent, due to the adrenaline your body generates in response to such a stressful event or other reasons. And, if you don’t have your own medical or car insurance, still go see a doctor. The most important thing is getting urgent care and attention; our expert attorneys will help you figure out who is paying for your medical care later.
Seek Expert Counsel
Once you’ve called the police, documented the collision, and gotten the medical care you need, your next step should be to speak with an attorney who can guide you through the process of identifying and bringing a claim against the insurance company of the person that hit you. The earlier you involve an experienced car accident lawyers, the greater help they can be to you.
Your lawyers can work with the police department to look at surveillance footage, take witness statements, consult accident reconstruction experts who can help piece together the crash and the identity of the person who fled the scene. The sooner they are on the case, the less chance for the trail to your rightful compensation to grow cold.
After you have taken these necessary steps, your lawyers will take over the burden of litigation. You should focus on recovering from the collision and getting your life back on track. But you can always keep an eye out for anything that might help identify the person who hit you. Several years ago, a New York woman was involved in a hit and run collision during which her son witnessed the make and model of the car that fled the scene. She called around to junkyards in the area and gave them the information. Two weeks later, a junkyard owner notified her that the exact car was sitting in his yard ready to be scrapped. As a result, the people who fled the accident were able to be identified and the victim of the collision was able to recover the damages she was owed.
It is not your responsibility to find the person that hit you, but even the most minor of details that you can remember can prove crucial to resolving your ordeal as quickly and satisfactorily as possible.