How to Handle a Hit and Run Accident

By Peter DePaolis

In the early morning hours on Sunday, April 3, 2011, a hit and run driver killed a 23-year-old Herndon man on Interstate 66. Hit and run accidents can happen anytime, anywhere; though statistically, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, fatal hit and run accidents occur most often on Friday, Saturday or Sunday (58 percent) and between the hours of 9:00 PM and 3:00 AM (47 percent).

What is a Hit and Run?

When a vehicle collides with another vehicle, property or a human being, the driver must stop and provide certain information, such as his/her name, license number and insurance information. Exchanging such information is not a matter of courtesy; rather, it is a matter of law. When a driver flees the scene of an auto accident without providing the information required by law, that driver commits a criminal act known as hit and run. The reasons that drivers flee accident scenes vary, but two of the most common factors in hit and run accidents are unlicensed or illegal drivers and fear of Driving Under the Influence penalties.

Hit and Run Accidents on the Rise

In September 2009, The Washington Post reported a rise in fatal hit and run accidents in the Virginia-Maryland-DC region that mirrors a nationwide trend. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration:

  • From 1994 to 2003, a total of 14,914 people died in hit and run crashes in the U.S.
  • Nearly 1,500 people die in hit and run accidents annually.
  • Approximately 11 percent of all police reported crashes involve at least one driver who flees the scene.
  • Approximately 6 in 10 fatally injured victims are pedestrians.
  • Hit and runs are involved in 15 percent to 19 percent of pedestrian crashes.
  • One out of every five pedestrians killed on the road dies from a hit and run accident.

What to Do Following a Hit and Run Accident

An auto accident is frightening and stressful enough when the other driver stops to exchange information as required by law; however, when the other driver flees the scene, you may find yourself feeling especially helpless or angry in the moments after the collision. If you become the victim of a hit and run accident, the first thing you should do after the crash is to check yourself and all passengers for serious injuries. Immediately call 911 to request an ambulance if anyone has been seriously injured. If no one in the vehicle requires an ambulance, in addition to staying calm, you can take the following post-accident steps:

  • Call 911 to report the hit and run accident. Provide as many details as you can about the other car and driver. Prompt calling records the time of the event and increases the likelihood that the other party will be found.
  • If your vehicle is in the path of traffic and is operable, move it to a safe place, such as the shoulder. Turn on the hazard lights or use flares, so passing drivers know to exercise caution.
  • Write down anything you remember about the other car and driver. If there are witnesses, obtain their contact information.
  • Call your insurance company to report the accident.
  • If you have a camera, photograph your vehicle and the accident site.
  • Seek medical treatment for any minor injuries.

Contacting an experienced and knowledgeable Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer is another important step following a hit and run accident. A qualified attorney can answer any accident-related questions you have and assist you in investigating the facts and law surrounding your case. When the hit and run driver is found, a qualified attorney can help you determine what actions to take against the offender. If you have been the victim of a hit and run accident or if a loved one was killed by a hit and run driver, contact a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney right away to find out your legal options.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.