Finding yourself dealing with the ramifications of a car accident is bound to be stressful – especially if you’ve been injured. If, however, you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident, the experience is likely to be that much more frustrating. Whether you were in the vehicle at the time of the accident or not, you’ll need to contact your insurance company and try to resolve the matter as efficiently as possible.
Drivers involved in crashes are supposed to stop their vehicles, assess the situation to determine if medical attention is required, share contact information with the other driver(s), and contact the police so an official report can be filed. In Maryland, it is illegal for drivers to leave the car accident scene without completing those steps. Punishments, depending on the severity of the wreck, may range from fines to point removal on their driver’s licenses, or even jail time.
There are few hard and fast rules to determine how long a hit-and-run investigation will take. The average time length will vary based on every detail of the case as well as who is investigating the claim. There are some common factors to consider, however.
First of all, if you do not know who the responsible party is, the settlement process will take longer. That is why it’s critical to have a thorough investigation conducted. Locating the person who hit your vehicle and left the scene will significantly improve your chances of receiving the compensation you need to get your life back in order.
Other factors include the type of hit-and-run that occured, the severity of the accident, and whether or not you have a personal injury attorney assisting with your claim.
Types of Hit-and-Run Accidents
Generally, there are two ways in which a hit-and-run crash could occur. The difference between the two types is whether or not you are present when the crash happens.
If you are not present when an accident occurs, it’s customary for the other driver to try to find you or to leave a note with their contact and insurance information. These crashes occur most often in parking lots and public garages. If you do notice damage that was not present before you left your vehicle and a note is not present, you can contact the police who will start their investigation to determine what happened, when it happened, and who hit your car.
If you are present when the hit-and-run happens, the accident could result in injuries. You’ll need to evaluate yourself for physical harm, call the police, and take pictures of the damage to your vehicle. Never follow the other driver, but document what you can remember about the vehicle. Even a partial license plate can provide enough evidence for the police to find the person.
Regardless of how the accident happened, you should report the incident to your insurance company. In most cases, uninsured motorist coverage should pay for the damages you’ve incurred. If the negligent party can be located, however, they may be responsible for covering your losses.
Understanding the Investigation Process
There are many reasons why a person might choose to abandon an auto accident scene, like, for example, intoxication or the lack of insurance. No matter their reason, there is never an excuse. In conjunction with local law enforcement and an attorney, you can take steps to determine who hit your vehicle.
Whether or not the police open an investigation for a hit-and-run often depends on the severity of property damage and physical injuries. Their report will contain all the information you can provide to them in addition to their own assessment.
If they do conduct an investigation, they will try to locate witnesses and determine if there are any security cameras in the area. There are often cameras at places like businesses and intersections with traffic lights. Some police stations are also utilizing social media in an attempt to have the guilty party come forward on their own. Posts on social media could also bring witnesses forward with new evidence that could help your case. Once they have all the evidence they can find, they’ll use that to try to find the person that neglected their legal duty.
When you seek a lawyer’s help with the claim to your insurance company, they will be able to access the police report and conduct their own investigation – which could be even more thorough. Once you file the claim, the insurance company is likely to ask you an overwhelming number of questions. At this point, you are allowed to say that the matter is being investigated and you are not willing to discuss anything until it has been completed. Your attorney can also handle the difficult conversations and make sure nothing is said to jeopardize your claim.
Factors that Affect the Length of a Hit-and-Run Investigation
It’s difficult to estimate how long it will take to settle a hit-and-run investigation because it’s dependent upon how readily available the evidence is. If, for example, you were able to record the driver’s entire license plate before they drove away, the investigation and settlement process may only take a matter of weeks. Witness testimony can also shorten the length of time it takes to find the guilty party.
Unfortunately, there are many more factors that could lengthen the hit-and-run investigation. If you were unable to gather any information about the other driver or their vehicle, for example, or if the accident happened in a rural area without any video cameras, the investigation is likely to take much longer. If your injuries are severe and you are unable to participate in the investigation or help start one with an attorney, it could take months to determine what actually happened.
As time passes, the likelihood of determining who hit your car decreases. Getting in touch with a lawyer who is experienced in hit-and-run cases is often your best chance at finding the person who wronged you and holding them accountable for what happened.
What Happens if a Hit-and-Run Goes Unsolved?
If a hit-and-run investigation does not result in the outcome you were hoping for, it’s understandable to be upset. You may be worried about your insurance company making you pay for the damages, your medical bills, and your insurance premium.
Working with a knowledgeable lawyer is the best way to avoid a situation like this. Even if the culprit is not caught, an attorney can make sure you receive the compensation you need to get your life back in order so you can move past the incident.
At Belsky, Weinberg, and Horowitz, LLC, we have years of experience handling car accident claims for clients all over Maryland. We understand the complexities of this area of litigation and stay up-to-date on all federal and state laws that may apply to your claim. If you’re prepared to take action but don’t know what to start, a free case evaluation can point you in the right direction.