D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has appeared on legaladvice.com, themanifest.com, and vice.com.

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jan 18, 2021

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Picture this scene: You’ve just finished a wonderful dinner at your favorite restaurant. As you enter the parking lot, you’re feeling great. But once you see your car, you instantly go from cloud nine to feeling sick.

You’ve just become the victim of a hit and run incident.

Here’s the deal: we know being the victim of a hit and run is frustrating. But not knowing how to handle a hit and run incident? Well, that could make matters worse.

It’s why we’re spending some time breaking down what you need to know should you find yourself in this situation. We also want to be your car insurance guide, ensuring you have the proper coverage in what is undoubtedly a worst-case scenario.

Keep reading as we dig deeper into how to handle a hit and run incident. While you’re at it, you can also begin the recovery process by shopping for the best insurer. Start now by entering your ZIP code into our free car insurance comparison tool.

How to Handle a Hit and Run

Insurance experts report that seven of every 10 hit and runs involve a parked car. Here’s another startling fact:

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a hit and run crash takes place every 43 seconds in the United States.

Unfortunately, in most cases, you’ll find that it is highly unlikely that you’ll be able to find the responsible party. While most states have laws on their books requiring drivers to leave information when they collide and damage parked cars, the vast majority of drivers fail to do so.

So what should you do if you’re involved in such a situation? We offer the following tips:

Don’t Leave the Hit and Run Scene

Remaining at the scene will probably be the last thing you’ll want to do after becoming the victim of a hit and run. This may be even more difficult to do if you saw the perpetrator, and you want to follow and confront them.

However, it’s critical to note that the first rule in how to handle a hit and run is to remain at the scene.

There are a number of reasons why it’s important to remain at the scene of a hit and run. One, you’ll need to begin gathering as much information as possible, including possible eyewitness accounts (we’ll break all of that down soon). Two, if you leave the scene and then contact authorities, the police may question whether or not you were truly the victim.

So, as frustrated as you may be, stick around, and go through each step of the process.

Be Prepared to Call 911 and the Police

If you or someone in your car is injured as a result of a hit and run, call 911 immediately.

Regardless of whether you were hurt, you should also contact the police. Doing so will provide the opportunity for officers to respond to the scene and create an official report. This will be key when it’s time to contact your car insurance company (which we also suggest doing right away).

With enough notice and information from the scene, the police may also be able to track down the hit and run driver. You can take it from this officer, who offers additional tips on how to handle a hit and run:

Making these crucial calls won’t be the only steps you’ll want to take should you become the victim of a hit and run. Now, we’re going to explore the key details and facts you’ll want to begin gathering at the scene.

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Document the Scene of the Hit and Run Incident

As the victim of a hit and run, it may be tempting to stand back and let officials handle all of the work. However, taking a passive role may prove to be counterproductive. Take action, and begin to document the scene:

  • To the best of your ability, make a note of the time and location of the hit and run incident.
  • If you saw the car, quickly write down everything you can remember. This includes the make and model of the car, the color, the license plate number (even if it’s just a portion), the driver’s appearance, and what direction he or she drove off in.
  • Document the damage done to your car. If you have a cell phone with a camera, snap close up images of any damage before you move your car.

When it comes to documenting the scene, no detail is too small. Take the time to not only detail what you see, but also everything that actually happened. Even if some of the details seem minor or unimportant, they could be vital in the eyes of a police officer or insurance agent.

We want to reiterate: don’t be quick to leave the scene of a hit and run incident. Leaving too soon will deprive you of the opportunity to get these important details.

Find Eyewitnesses and Surveillance Video of the Hit and Run

If there were eyewitnesses to the hit and run, begin to ask them what they saw. Write it down, or even record them speaking into your phone. Obtain their names and contact information for future reference.

As we mentioned earlier, a lot of hit and run incidents involve parked cars. Check to see if there are any surveillance cameras in place in the parking lot.

Most retail shopping centers, commercial parking lots and garages, and even cities have such cameras in use.

If you spot them, there is likely video documentation of the incident. Be prepared to ask the business that owns the parking lot if you can have copies of any footage.

Report the Hit and Run to Your Car Insurance Company

Call your insurance company before you leave the scene. Doing so will be important for two big reasons.

First, if your car was damaged, you may consider filing a claim for damage done. By calling your car insurance company right away, representatives can not only help you file a car insurance claim, but your claim will also be processed a lot faster.

Secondly, contacting your insurer will also shed more light as to whether you will need to have an official report filed as part of your claim. Because insurance is regulated on the state level, the procedure can vary based on where you live.

Will my car insurance cover a hit and run?

As long as we’re talking about how to handle a hit and run, we know you have one very important question:  Is a hit and run covered under my car insurance? We’re glad you asked. Here’s a quick take from an insurance agent:

In terms of how to handle a hit and run, this is what you need to remember: any damage done to your car would be, in most cases, covered under your collision coverage.

However, not everyone chooses to purchase collision coverage. That means if you have collision coverage, you’ll likely need to pay a deductible before coverage kicks in. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may have to pay for repairs out of pocket.

Right about now, you may be asking yourself, Do I have enough accident coverage? If you’re not sure, take the time to do some research. Speak to your agent, and learn to assess what you may or may not need in terms of coverage.

Be Prepared with Uninsured Motorist Coverage

If you’ve been injured in a hit and run, you might choose to make a claim on your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

While you might think uninsured motorist coverage is just for situations where you’re involved in a crash with someone without insurance, it can also be applicable in a hit and run incident, even if the other driver cannot be found.

In fact, the Insurance Information Institute (III) points to uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage as a way for drivers to be reimbursed should they be involved in a hit and run incident.

We suggest you ask your agent or another company representative if you have sufficient coverage for incidents like this.

If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, all hope is not lost. If you have full coverage, meaning you’ve purchased collision and comprehensive coverage, you’re still covered, minus your deductible.

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Hit and Run Statistics

Before you think a hit and run can’t happen to you — think again. Unfortunately, the statistics tell a shocking story. Not only are they prevalent, many are also fatal.

We’ve put together the most recent data available, straight from a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

Hit-and-Run Incidents and Fatalities
YearNumber of Hit-and-Run CrashesHit-and-run Fatalities
2015737,1001,819
2014703,9001,578
2013640,1001,612
2012655,4001,513
2011614,2001,459
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We can see that the number of hit and run crashes increased dramatically in a three-year period, going from 640,100 in 2013 to nearly 740,000 in 2015. Just as troubling are the number of fatalities. From 2014 to 2015, we see a significant jump from 1,578 to 1,819 deaths.

Seeing these numbers, you can understand why experts with the AAA Foundation see these trends as “alarming.” All the more reason to be aware of how to handle a hit and run, and to protect your most precious asset: your life.

Frequently Asked Questions: How to Handle a Hit and Run

Whether you have questions about fault, or you want to know more about insurance coverage — we’re addressing your FAQs about how to handle a hit and run right now.

#1 – Who is at fault in a hit and run?

If you’ve become the victim of a hit and run incident, you may find yourself asking this question. Specifically, you want to know if your insurance company will consider you at fault for the incident.

The good news? If you do your part and report the incident right away, notify the police, contact your insurer, and gather as much information as possible — all signs should point to you not being at fault in the incident.

However, if you drag your feet and don’t do what’s needed, things could go awry. Bottom line? Follow our checklist, and make sure you have all of your bases covered.

#2 – Can you prove a hit and run?

Whether you can prove a hit and run will depend on a large number of factors, the most important being evidence. If surveillance video exists, or you have strong eyewitness testimony, you may be able to prove a hit and run.

However, not all hit and run incidents are so easy to prove. Unfortunately, there are many drivers who will leave the scene of a hit and run without leaving any information or admitting that they did something wrong. In other cases, drivers are not even aware they were the victim of a hit and run until long after the fact.

#3 – Will my insurance go up if I was a victim of a hit and run?

Generally speaking, your rates should not go up if you’ve been the victim of a hit and run.

Even though your rates shouldn’t increase, this doesn’t mean you won’t have any out-of-pocket costs. If your car was damaged and you want to repair it, you could opt to file a claim with your insurer and pay the deductible.

How to Handle a Hit and Run Incident: A Final Word

No one wants to even imagine being the victim of a hit and run incident. But the fact of the matter is this: a hit and run can happen to anyone. It is imperative you know how to handle a hit and run, that way you don’t end up with an even bigger headache after the fact.

We can’t say it enough — responding, and responding quickly, is key. Notify the authorities. Get as much information as you can. Be thorough. Document everything. And ask plenty of questions.

Your insurance likely won’t increase after a hit and run incident. But, you may have to pay up in terms of deductibles and repairs.

Not certain that your coverage will hold up after a hit and run? Begin shopping companies and rates now. Start by entering your ZIP code into our free car insurance comparison tool today.