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What to do if you're the victim of a hit-and-run accident

accident on street, damaged automobiles take photo car crash accident for insurance Photo by Nipiphon Na Chiangmai / Alamy Stock Photo

These 6 tips will help you handle a hit-and-run crash and make your insurance claim go smoothly.

You’re driving on a busy highway when you notice a speeding car coming up fast behind you. It’s zigzagging between lanes, narrowly missing other cars. Before you can react, it catches up with you—and clips your car’s rear end.

Momentarily stunned, you ask if your passengers are okay, and you start to pull to the side of the road. Then you get a second shock: The perpetrator is racing away, clearly with no intention of stopping to exchange insurance information.

You’re the victim of a hit-and-run driver. At this point, you know the normal post-crash procedures don’t necessarily apply. But how can you make sure your insurance claim goes smoothly? These six tips will help.

1. Call the police.

If the damage is minor or no one is injured, the police might not come to the crash scene. However, your auto insurance policy may require you to notify the police of any hit-and-run accident. If that’s the case, be sure to file a police report, whether at the scene, by phone, or at the police station

2. Put it in writing.

Pull over to a safe place and write down as much information about the other driver and the collision as you can remember. Some or all of the other driver’s license plate would be great. But even the other car’s make, model, and color can help, along with the direction it was headed and any damage the car might have sustained.

3. Use your camera.

Take pictures of your car and the area in which the crash occurred if it is safe to do so. Time-stamped photos of the road and weather conditions, as well as traffic flow, can assist with your claim.

4. Talk to witnesses.

Ask them to describe what they saw, and write down their testimony, their names, and their contact information so that your claims adjuster can get in touch with them if necessary.

5. Report the collision accurately when you call your insurer.

Intentionally misrepresenting facts about an accident could lead to a suspicion of fraud. Insurance companies can easily recognize whether a vehicle came into contact with another vehicle and whether it was in motion when it sustained damage.

In many cases, either the victim, a witness, or a surveillance camera can supply enough information for the police to find the fleeing driver. If a hit-and-run driver is caught, he or she could face serious penalties: fines of up to $10,000 and prison time, depending on the severity of the damage or injuries caused by the crash.

6. Don’t chase the other car.

You might be tempted to try to get the license plate number for your claim, but that could result in unsafe driving and worsen the situation. Remember: As long as you have the appropriate coverage, your insurance company should assist in repairing your car.

Your insurance agent can provide more information. Visit an AAA branch, call 855-222-5012, or go to AAA.com/insuranceinfo.

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