Being involved in a car accident is never fun and, at the very minimum, can cause a lot of stress. In more serious instances, it can leave individuals physically and mentally injured, and in need of help. Oftentimes, the parties involved will exchange information, contact the police, and wait for medical assistance if needed. However, hit and runs can result in even more distress, especially in the case of an injury. In the state of Texas, hit and run accidents are a serious offense. If someone is injured or killed during the accident, it’s a felony offense that’s punishable by law. A hit and run is classified as a driver leaving the scene of an accident, regardless of its severity, without first identifying themselves to the other parties involved or the police. To provide some assistance for these types of occurrences, here’s what to do if you experience a hit and run.
1. Stay Calm
Although a hit and run can shake your nerves, it’s important to do what you can to stay calm. Take a few deep breaths and make sure that you’re oriented. Do not drive away from the scene of the accident. Hit and run laws apply to both the driver and the victim, so if you leave the scene of the accident, you won’t be able to take any further action.
2. Make Sure Everyone’s Safe
Once you’ve oriented yourself and feel comfortable, make sure everyone in the car is safe. If you’re in the middle of the road and your car is still drivable, try to pull off to the side to get out of the way of moving traffic. This can help reduce the risk of an additional accident caused by distracted driving. If anyone is hurt, try to provide basic first aid. However, never attempt to move anyone who looks like they have a serious injury, especially if you suspect that their back is affected. Instead, wait for emergency medical services to address more complex injuries.
3. Call the Police
After you’re out of the way of further damage, call the police. This is important for three reasons. First, if there are any serious injuries you can have the police dispatch an ambulance or paramedics at the same time. Second, calling the police helps increase the likelihood that the person who caused the hit and run is found, especially if you were able to get their license plate or other distinguishable features of their car or person. Finally, calling the police is an important part of filing your insurance claim. Without the official police record, your insurance provider will be less likely to cooperate with reimbursement for damages.
4. Write Down Details
You may be asked about certain details of the accident on the phone, but the dispatcher will likely be more focused on your condition and location rather than the other party’s car. Once you’ve made the initial phone call to the police, try to write down every detail that you remember. If you’re able to recall a license plate number, great. Even if it’s just a partial, it can drastically increase the likelihood that the other party is caught. Other details to write down include the color, make, and model of the car, the state of the license plate, or anything about the driver.
5. Call Your Insurance Provider
Once you’ve gotten the police report filed, you’ll want to call your insurance provider. You need to file a claim in order to recover the damages caused by the hit and run. Unfortunately, if the driver is never caught, it can be difficult to get compensation from your provider. If you’re having trouble with filing a claim or are denied coverage benefits, you may need to take further action.
6. Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Being involved in a car accident can be an expensive endeavor, especially if the person at fault is never caught. Rather than trying to cover vehicle damage and personal injury out of pocket, consider working with a car accident attorney. They understand the intricacies involved in car wrecks, especially when they’re a hit and run. By working with a professional, you can increase your likelihood of getting the proper compensation through either your insurance provider or any other parties involved. A car accident attorney is also beneficial when the hit and run driver has been identified, as they can help you maximize your compensation and make sure you’re set up for the physical and mental recovery ahead.
The hit and run Texas laws vary depending on the damage that the hit and run driver inflicted on the other party’s car or body. In the case of death or serious injuries, the punishment is a felony. If the hit and run driver caused less serious injuries, they could face up to five years in prison and/or a fine. If the hit and run driver only caused damage to the vehicle, it’s a misdemeanor (either Class B or Class D depending on the cost of damage). In any case, hit and runs are illegal, but the driver isn’t always found. To help you navigate the legal waters following this type of accident, it’s important to work with a personal injury attorney like the team at Houston M. Smith. We understand that the emotional, physical, and financial burdens caused by car wrecks can be debilitating, which is why we provide each of our clients with guidance, protection, and advocacy. Contact us today for a free case evaluation—you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.