Two cars collide in an accident on the highway. One driver takes off, and the other driver, unable to get his car started, is stranded on the side of the road. He makes a police report of the accident, but the other driver is nowhere to be found.
What happens next? Does the stranded driver have any legal recourse?Leaving the Scene of an Accident is a Crime
There were at least 16,000 hit-and-run accidents in Tennessee in 2009, and only 4,337 were solved.
Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal in Tennessee, but penalties vary depending on the state. If the fleeing driver is caught, he will face stiffer penalties and potential jail time for leaving the scene.
If a passenger or driver was injured in the other vehicle, the penalties will likely be even greater.What Happens if the Other Driver Leaves the Scene of the Accident?
Any time you are involved in a car accident, the first and most important thing is to call 911 if someone is injured. It's equally important to file a police report within 24 hours. Even if the other driver flees the scene, filing a report helps prove that you were at the scene and will corroborate your claim with the insurance company.
If there are injuries, a police report is required in order to pursue compensation for medical bills, lost income, etc. in the state of Tennessee.
A police report can be filed from the hospital or the accident scene, depending on the severity of the collision.
When speaking to police, provide as many details about the other driver and the vehicle as you can. Perhaps you got the license plate number before he or she fled the scene. Maybe you caught a glimpse of the driver's appearance or noticed something unique about the vehicle that would make it easy to identify.
Even if you can only remember the make or the model of the vehicle, that information can help law enforcement find the other driver.
Providing as many details as you can about the other driver will help law enforcement potentially track him or her down.
Your health is your top priority, so seek medical attention right away if there are injuries. If there are no injuries, look around for any possible witnesses. Get the contact information of as many witnesses as you can.
Take photos of the accident scene and vehicle, and write down the time and location of the collision.Who's Responsible if the Other Driver Flees the Scene?
If police are unable to track down the driver who fled, the stranded driver can file a claim with his or her own insurance company. Typically, drivers who are victims of a hit and run accident can only file a claim if they have uninsured motorist coverage.
There are two types of uninsured motorist coverage:
- Uninsured motorist property damage, which will cover the cost of damages to property.
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury, which will cover the cost of medical expenses.
Some states require uninsured motorist coverage, while others do not. A handful of states will not allow uninsured motorist property damage coverage to cover the cost of damages. These states include: Louisiana, California, Ohio, Georgia, Colorado and Illinois. Other forms of coverage are available in these states to cover the cost of property damage.
Depending on the severity of the accident and whether there were any injuries, hiring an attorney may be advised. If there's property damage or injuries and the victim does not have uninsured motorist coverage, compensation can be pursued through the court system. In this case, the victim will want to work with an attorney who has experience with hit-and-run cases.