If a hit and run driver injured you, you might wonder what options you have for compensation. Who will pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages? Below are seven tips to help guide you after a hit and run accident.
Tip #1. Don’t assume a personal injury lawyer can’t help you
A car accident lawyer can pursue a settlement even if law enforcement never identifies the hit and run driver.
Your lawyer can:
- Pursue adequate compensation from your own insurance company
- Help you understand your state’s laws about hit and run accident victims
- Identify any third parties who may have also contributed to your accident
- Calculate the lifelong costs you may have due to your accident, such as lost income and ongoing medical care
Most hit and run accident injury lawyers offer free consultations. It costs you nothing to learn if and how a lawyer can help you.
Tip #2. Let your lawyer talk to your insurance company
You must notify your insurance company about any car accident you’re in, including a hit and run crash. You should contact them immediately after an accident to notify them. Give them the facts, such as the crash’s time, date, and location.
Beyond that information, it’s wise to let your lawyer handle communication with your insurer. What you don’t want to do is speculate about the cause of the crash, make a recorded statement, or assign blame.
Your insurance company is a for-profit business, no matter how long you’ve been a loyal customer. They need to make money, which they do by denying or underpaying claims. The insurance adjustor may take what you think is an innocent comment and turn it against you. A lawyer can communicate with the insurance company without weakening your claim.
Tip #3. Don’t minimize your hit and run accident injuries
Perhaps you turned down medical care at the scene of the crash. As a hit and run accident victim, you want to push through the pain and get on with your life. You may trivialize your injuries if you feel hopeless about receiving financial recovery. Ignoring or downplaying your injuries can cause them to worsen over time.
Typically, the law allows you one opportunity to pursue compensation for your bodily injuries and other damages. If you haven’t already, seek medical care. Be honest with your doctor about your physical pain and emotional distress. This transparency allows your lawyer to pursue maximum compensation.
Tip #4. Follow your medical treatment plan
After seeing your doctor for your accident injuries, follow their treatment plan. You may need time off work, surgery, and physical therapy to maximize your physical recovery. Not following your medical treatment plan or skipping appointments can impact your physical and financial recovery. The insurance company may question the severity of your injuries if you don’t follow your doctor’s advice.
Tip #5. Obtain a copy of the police report
The police report may seem like a minor detail in the days following your accident. However, this document proves the accident occurred and provides vital information. You may be unable to move forward with your insurance claim without the police report. Your lawyer will need a copy, and you should also keep a copy for your records.
You can obtain a copy by contacting the police department that responded to your accident. Some municipalities have an online option to request police reports. You can call the police department’s non-emergency line for assistance.
Tip #6. Consult an attorney before accepting any insurance money
An insurance adjuster may reach out to you while you are recovering in the hospital. They may offer you a fast payout, so you don’t have to worry about money for your immediate expenses. You may not have even had a chance to contact a lawyer yet.
Be aware that the law may entitle you to much more than the insurer offers you. An immediate payout benefits the insurer but may leave you with unpaid expenses. Insurance companies know if they catch you while you’re vulnerable and not thinking clearly, you may sign on the dotted line.
Once you agree to a settlement, the law typically prevents you from pursuing more compensation in the future. Accepting the first payout the insurance company offers can leave you with substantial uncovered medical expenses and lost wages.
Tip #7. Don’t be scared of a court trial
You may not need to go to court to win a settlement. Experienced personal injury lawyers are skilled negotiators who can anticipate how insurer companies think and operate. You may never set foot in a courtroom because you reach a fair settlement well before then.
Occasionally, a trial may offer the best chance at maximum compensation. For example, if there is a dispute over negligence, liability, or your damages are worth much more than what the insurance company offers.
Your lawyer can explain the advantages and disadvantages of a trial and help you prepare and feel ready if you pursue that route. Personal injury trials are rarely as dramatic as TV shows and movies portray. A court trial may only last a few days, whereas your expenses from a hit and run may last a lifetime.
How lawyers can maximize compensation for hit and run accident victims
A lawyer can identify any third-party negligence in your hit and run crash
Multiple negligent parties can contribute to a hit and run accident. Even if the police never identify the driver who fled the scene, the law may hold another party responsible for your injuries.
Municipalities/Departments of Transportation
A lawyer can determine if poor road conditions contributed to your accident.
You may be able to pursue compensation against a government entity that failed to fix issues like:
- Missing or damaged traffic signs
- Deteriorating pavement
- Missing or damaged guardrails
Auto and auto parts manufacturers
A lawyer can help assess if an auto defect contributed to your hit and run accident.
You may blame the manufacturer for a crash caused by:
- Malfunctioning breaks
- Faulty tires
- Any other preventable hazards the manufacturer missed or chose to ignore
Multi-vehicle crashes are often legally complex. Any other driver that stayed on the scene could have contributed to the accident.
When appropriate, a lawyer can investigate a multi-crash to determine if any of these behaviors played a role:
- Distracted driving (texting, eating, cell phone use)
- Intoxicated or drugged driving
- Inattentive driving (failure to obey traffic signs and signals)
A lawyer can negotiate a settlement with your insurer
In some accidents, the hit and run driver remains unknown, and no third parties were involved. In that case, you may be able to turn to your own insurance company for compensation.
All insurance companies, even your own, are out to make a profit. What an insurance adjuster thinks you deserve and what the law entitles you to are often two different amounts. A lawyer can pursue maximum compensation on your behalf from your insurer.
A lawyer can represent you in court if negotiations fail
Most hit and run auto accident injury claims settle out of court. But sometimes, the insurer won’t budge. Despite the evidence, they don’t want to pay a fair settlement. If a court trial is appropriate, you’ll need a lawyer to guide you. A lawyer can help you weigh the pros and cons of a trial and represent you in court.
Hit-and-run auto accidents: Myths versus facts
Don’t let false beliefs or hearsay prevent you from taking legal action.
Below are some of the most common hit and run accident myths.
- Myth: If law enforcement never identifies the hit and run driver, there is no one for me to sue.
- Fact: A lawyer can identify any other parties involved in your accident, such as a highway maintenance department or a third driver. Also, you may take legal action against your own insurance company if they refuse to cover your damages.
- Myth: If the state drops criminal charges against the hit and run driver, I can’t pursue a personal injury settlement.
- Fact: Your right to file a personal injury claim is independent of any criminal charges the other driver may face. You can pursue a settlement if the state drops charges or never charges the driver.
- Myth: I don’t need an attorney for a hit and run accident. My uninsured motorist policy will cover everything.
- Fact: Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that don’t want to spend money. The amount they offer for your damages may be much less than what you deserve. You won’t know if the insurance payout is fair without consulting a car accident injury lawyer.
Hit-and-run accident settlement: How much money can I get?
The amount you pursue depends on your accident-related damages.
From there, several factors can affect the amount you receive:
- Whether the hit and run driver remains unknown
- If the hit and run driver had insurance
- If you pursue compensation from your own insurer or that of the hit and run driver
The law categorizes your damages as either economic or non-economic.
Economic damages after a hit and run accident
Economic damages are also called monetary damages because they have specific financial value. Your economic damages to date are relatively easy to add up based on bills and missed time at work. Where insurers may attempt to cut corners is your future economic damages, such as lost wages and medical care.
When hit and run lawyers calculate a settlement, they may consult with other professionals to ensure they cover all your losses to include in your claim.
- Lost income. Do your car accident injuries prevent you from returning to work? Can you return to work for fewer hours or in a lower-paying position? Did your injuries result in permanent disability? Your attorney can use all these facts to help calculate the losses you experienced from your accident injuries.
- Medical care. Will you require ongoing rehabilitative therapies? Have your doctors established a prognosis? Will you need lifelong care for a catastrophic injury such as a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury? Your attorney can collect the bills you’ve received and consult with medical professionals to accurately estimate the costs you will incur for future medical care.
- Professional services. Do your injuries prevent you from tasks you did before the accident, such as caring for your children, housekeeping, and lawn care? What is the cost of hiring someone to do these things? These costs should also be included in your claim.
- Property damage. Is your vehicle a total loss? How much is repair or replacement? Were any valuables in your car damaged? For example, were you traveling with work tools or other valuables? The value of any damaged property can be included in your claim.
Non-economic damages after a hit and run accident
You may qualify for non-economic damages based on your state’s laws and what entity you sue.
These damages are the intangible effect the accident has on your life, including:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
- Loss of fertility
- Loss of companionship for your spouse
Hit and run accident injury FAQs
When can I contact a hit and run accident injury lawyer?
Many people falsely assume they don’t need a lawyer until they’ve hit a roadblock in negotiations with the insurance company. However, there is no benefit in waiting to consult an attorney. Most hit and run accident injury lawyers offer free consultations. It costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time to learn what your legal options are for compensation.
Waiting to hire a lawyer may complicate matters. Most forms of evidence fade as time passes. You also risk missing the statute of limitations deadline to file a legal claim, costing you the chance to use the court system to pursue compensation.
Can I still receive a settlement when the hit and run driver is never found?
Despite investigations, some hit and run drivers remain unknown. These cases are often legally complex. Your attorney may pursue a claim against your insurer, possibly under your underinsured motorist coverage. Taking action against a negligent third party may also be appropriate. No matter if the driver is unknown, you may have alternative means of obtaining compensation. Consult an attorney to determine other people or entities you may be able to file a claim against.
How long does a hit and run accident injury case take to settle?
Any car accident claim can take a few months to a year or longer to settle. Hit-and-run crashes can be on the longer end of the spectrum as they can be more legally complex.
A desire to accept whatever money you can and move on is normal. No one wants a long, drawn-out legal process without a clear end in sight. But a quick insurance payout likely won’t cover your total losses and will leave you without recourse.
Don’t miss the deadline to file a hit and run accident injury claim
All states have deadlines to file an accident injury claim, called a statute of limitations. Contact a lawyer right after a hit and run accident so you don’t miss this deadline and lose your opportunity to pursue compensation.
Be aware that the statute of limitations for your state is the last day a lawyer can file a lawsuit for your accident injuries. But don’t wait to contact an attorney. Hit-and-run accident lawyers need time to review the details of your case, gather evidence, and start out-of-court negotiations. Your legal options and the chance of recovering maximum compensation will diminish as you wait to begin the claims process.
Contact a car accident accident injury lawyer for your free case consultation and learn how a legal professional can help you pursue the compensation you need after a hit and run accident.