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

It's a busy Monday morning, and you're already running late to work when you hit yet another red light. You stop; the car behind you doesn't. The next thing you know, you've skidded to a stop in the middle of the intersection, your airbag has exploded, there's shattered glass everywhere, and – worst of all – the vehicle that hit you is nowhere to be found.

Fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime, but hit-and-runs still happen. If you're unfortunate enough to have been the victim, here are a few things you should do to protect yourself – and your rights – going forward:

  1. Call the police. As with any accident, the first thing you should do is report it. This step is even more important with a hit-and-run. Tell the dispatcher (and the officers, when they arrive) every detail you can think of, while the accident is still fresh in your mind. The vehicle's make, model and color; the driver's gender and stature; any snippets of their license plate. Any specific detail could be the key to finding the perpetrator. And the sooner the police know about it, the better their chances.
  2. Gather any evidence you can. Assuming you're not severely injured, be as thorough as you can in documenting the scene. Take photos with your cellphone. Ask for the contact information of witnesses. The police might not arrive in time to lock down all the evidence, and you'll thank yourself later for collecting critical documentation.
  3. Get a medical exam. You should seek a medical evaluation after any accident, even if you don't have visible injuries. You might have suffered internal injuries that aren't immediately apparent. In addition to securing prompt treatment, you can also secure documentation that may come in handy when proving your claim down the road.
  4. Tread carefully when it comes to insurance issues. You should contact your insurance company and report the accident, but don't give a recorded statement or sit down with an investigator. Always consult with an attorney before doing anything that could jeopardize your rights.

Even if the police never find the perpetrator, chances are, you probably have coverage through the uninsured motorist provision of your own policy.

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