Hit-and-run accidents aren’t exactly common, but they occur with enough regularity that you need to be aware of their existence and know what to do if one happens to you.
In the aftermath of a collision, you’ll likely be surging with adrenaline. You might be feeling frightened, angry, or threatened, and that means you won’t be thinking clearly.
The other driver might peel out, attempting to flee the scene as quickly as possible, and in your heightened emotional state, you’ll be tempted to follow them.
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But is it ever a good idea to follow a car after a hit-and-run accident?
Why Pursuit Is (Usually) a Bad Idea
For the most part, it’s a bad idea to follow a driver after a hit-and-run for several reasons:
- Heightened emotions. First, you’re in a heightened emotional state, which means you aren’t going to be thinking clearly, paying attention to your surroundings, or driving safely. You’ll be clouded with anger and excitement, trying desperately to catch up with the other driver. Accordingly, you could hit someone (or something) else and be liable for any damages you cause.
- Reckless driving. Don’t forget that your car has probably been damaged in the initial accident, which means it’s not necessarily reliable. A mechanical failure could make matters much worse for you and the people around you. If the other driver notices you following, it could cause them to start driving even more recklessly, putting more people in danger.
- Driver condition. When someone flees the scene of an accident intentionally, it’s usually for a reason. This person may have stolen a vehicle by force. They may have outstanding warrants for their arrest. They may also be high on drugs. In other words, they’re dangerous, and even if you catch up to them, you may just end up putting yourself in a different kind of danger.
- Chances of success. Even assuming everything goes well, your chances of success are slim. The other driver will likely continue fleeing indefinitely, which means you’d need to find some way to bring them to a stop while retaining full control of your vehicle.
That said, there may be some exceptions to this rule. If your car is perfectly drivable, and the other driver appears to be pulling away slowly on a low-traffic road, you may be able to get close enough to grab a license plate number. If their vehicle was heavily damaged and is not capable of fast travel (but yours is fully functional), you may be able to catch up to them.
What to Do Instead
In most cases, however, it’s better to do the following:
- Catch a license plate. If you can, look to the fleeing vehicle and try to capture and remember a license plate. Even if you only remember a few digits, there may be a chance that law enforcement officers can track down the vehicle in question. Take note of everything you can about the vehicle, including the make, color, and model.
- Be ready to contact a lawyer. Car accident lawyers oftentimes specialize in hit-and-run accidents, and in accidents in which you were personally injured. Be ready to talk to a lawyer in this area to maximize your chances of finding the offending driver and getting a reasonable payout.
- File a police report. After contacting emergency services and getting medical attention for anyone who needs it, take the time to file a police report. Insurance companies and judges will often look to a police report as an official record of what happened. Provide as much information as you can, and provide any evidence you’ve personally collected, such as photos or videos (including dashcam footage).
- Collect eyewitness testimonies. If there’s a police officer on the scene, they will probably take this step. Otherwise, you can attempt it yourself. Talk to people in the surrounding area to see if anybody witnessed the accident. At best, they may be able to accurately describe the fleeing video. At worst, they can corroborate your story and prove you weren’t at fault.
- Track down security footage. It may also be wise to see if there are any security cameras nearby, like in a parking lot or at a busy intersection. Even if nobody saw the fleeing vehicle, these cameras may have captured the whole incident.
Being in a hit-and-run accident can make you infuriated, but it’s in your best interest to remain as calm as possible and avoid pursuit. Going after the driver that hit you will almost certainly end up in more damage, either to you and your vehicle or to an innocent bystander.
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