Based on an analysis of the Texas Department of Transportation data, the number of hit-and-run accidents, as well as injuries and death resulting from it, has dramatically increased in Houston, Texas, outpacing other large Texas counties since 2009.
Accordingly, the total hit-and-run incidents doubled from 2018 to 2021.
Whether the hit-and-run driver involved is drunk, uninsured, panicked, with outstanding warrants or previous tickets, or with other legal problems, the accident causes the same injuries and damages for the victim as other vehicle collisions.
If you are in Houston, Texas, the chances of being involved in this horrible situation are high.
If you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident, follow these steps to help the police in finding the fleeing driver and assist you in filing your insurance claim.
What To Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Being the aggrieved party in a hit-and-run accident is rather unfortunate.
The burden of — finding the person responsible, recovering losses, treating injuries, gathering the evidence, and identifying the witnesses — is yours for the taking. Aside from that, the results are catastrophic. You may either sustain bodily injury or property damage.
Feeling helpless and confused at first is acceptable if you find yourself in this tragic situation. However, do not be discouraged.
You do not have to go through this alone.
With the help of a seasoned Houston car accident attorney, you can hold the party at fault responsible for the damages you suffered.
Remember that knowing what actions are necessary after a hit-and-run accident can help protect your rights and get the justice that you deserve.
Here is all the information you may need to handle the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident, including what to do and what not to do, who to contact for help, and how to protect yourself legally.
Memorize Important Details of the At-Fault Driver
Immediately after a hit-and-run, you may be in a state of shock. While it is entirely understandable, make all the effort to regain your composure. Make sure that you are safe.
Once you are safe from further harm, memorize the important details of the vehicle and the driver who hit you before they speed off. This will maximize your chances of finding the driver and make the insurance claim process as smooth as possible. The more information you have, the more likely the police can track them down.
If your phone is not damaged, take note of all the information you got while it is still fresh in your mind. List it down on a piece of paper if possible.
Some important details that you must record after a hit-and-run incident are as follows:
- Car make and model
- License plate number
- Physical description of the driver
- Physical description of the car
- Exact location and time of the accident
- General appearance of the area, such as landmarks, closest cross street, or off-ramp
- Passengers of the other vehicle, if any
In Houston, TX, exiting the scene of the accident without adequately identifying themselves to the parties involved is a felony when anyone is killed or injured.
Therefore, keep track of what you should do even after a frightful incident.
Make a careful note of the necessary details to help the police narrow down the possibilities.
Despite the need to record all the crucial details of the accident, your priority should be your safety and well-being, especially if you are injured.
Remember that the adrenaline may cause you to overlook your injury. If you can move freely, perform a head-to-toe assessment. If your movement is limited, it is best to dial 9-1-1, report the hit-and-run to the police, and stay put.
Turn on your hazard lights and turn off your car. If you can, safely drive your vehicle out of the traffic flow or completely exit the car after the other party flees.
Do not chase the fleeing driver in anger because you may be put in another dangerous situation, especially if the other driver is aggressive.
Calling the police to the accident scene ensures you will be safe moving forward and get the immediate medical attention you need.
Only leave the scene of the accident if the police say otherwise.
Once the police arrive, give them all the information you have about the other driver, the vehicle, and the accident itself.
Remember not to volunteer any statements which may be used against you. Stay collected.
Take Photos and Videos of the Accident Scene and Speak to Witnesses
If you are safe to exit the vehicle, take several photos and videos of the damage to your car, your injuries, the accident scene, and the area’s general appearance, including the traffic signals or road signs.
If the accident happened in a residential or business area, get ahold of a copy of the CCTVs available.
If you encounter bystanders, commuters, or persons who witnessed the accident, talk to them and ask if you could have their contact information.
The visual evidence you have will corroborate your side of the story in filing for a claim with your own insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Ultimately, it will prove that the at-fault driver left you during the accident without properly identifying himself, thus clearly establishing a hit-and-run case.
Document Your Damages
Documenting your damages is crucial when filing a claim, especially if you have uninsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage compensates you for the injuries and damages you suffered from an accident involving a hit-and-run driver with no insurance.
In other words, if you have this type of coverage, the insurance company will pay for your damages, which include but are not limited to the following:
- Medical expenses such as admission, doctors’ fees, consultation fees, medications, therapies, and other costs for treatment
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of past and future income
- Loss of quality of life
- Disability and impairment such as a traumatic brain injury
- Pain and suffering, such as mental anguish and emotional distress
Remember that the insurance coverages that protect you after getting involved in a hit-and-run accident are not required by law in Houston, TX.
Therefore, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, consider yourself lucky.
Get a Copy of the Police Report
Time is of the essence when reporting a hit-and-run incident to the proper authorities.
You have two (2) years from the date of the accident to file an insurance claim. After the period lapses, you lose the ability to file your claim.
In every case, the police report is vital evidence, whether it is a car insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
The report will prove the exact date and time of the incident. This is crucial to your case because a hit-and-run driver will try to prove that they are in some place other than the accident scene. With the police report, it will be easier to substantiate your claim.
The police report will be required for your claim if you have uninsured motorist coverage. If in your case, the driver is never identified or found, you can file an uninsured motorist claim through your insurance company.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
You should know that a hit-and-run driver’s liability depends on whether he is found or at least identified.
Since Texas is an at-fault state in car accident claims, you can directly file a claim with the hit-and-run driver’s insurance company if the other driver is located or identified.
If not, you can file a claim with your auto insurance company if it includes uninsured motorist coverage. The insurance company will cover the property damage of your car and the medical expenses related to the accident so long as it is within the policy’s coverage limit.
Remember that insurance coverages are often limited.
Hiring a reputable Houston car accident attorney is the right course of action for you to get the full benefit of your coverage or the at-fault party’s coverage.
Consequences of a Hit-and-Run Accident
According to Texas Transportation Code, the penalties for a hit-and-run depends on the severity of the act and the circumstances of the accident.
If a person is severely injured or killed, the act is considered a felony and metes a penalty of up to twenty (20) years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
If a person is injured, the act is considered a felony and imposes a penalty of up to five (5) years of imprisonment and the same fine as when a person is severely injured or killed.
However, if no one is injured but the driver hits a car or any other object, such as a fence or signage, the penalties are the same. The only difference is the dollar amount of the damage caused.
If you were recently involved in a hit-and-run accident, consult a Houston car accident lawyer and weigh your legal options properly with the help of an expert.