How Do I Report a Hit-and-Run Accident in Georgia?

As if being involved in a traffic accident weren’t bad enough, hundreds of people a year find themselves abandoned on the road by hit-and-run drivers in Georgia.

Legally, every driver involved in an accident is obligated to stop, share their driver’s license and insurance information, and most importantly, make sure that everyone who needs medical care gets it. If you’ve been hurt by someone who instead chose to run away, this post is about the next steps you’ll need to take in pursuit of justice.

Call the Police Immediately

Georgia law requires drivers to file a police report for any traffic accident that results in injuries, however minor, or more than $500 in property damage. If you’re in your car when an accident happens, and the other driver flees without taking the proper steps, calling the police isn’t just a way for you to report that other driver. It’s mandatory, in order for you to stay in compliance with the law yourself.

Calling 9-1-1 as soon as an accident happens can sometimes make it possible for police to catch the hit-and-run driver right away. This is unlikely if the accident is an isolated event, but if the hit-and-run driver is in the middle of a crime spree, receiving timely reports from victims can help police pinpoint the driver’s location and cut off their escape routes.

In less urgent situations — for example, returning to your parked car to find it seriously damaged without an adequate note — you should still call the non-emergency number for your local police department to file a report.

Without a police report, it is much more difficult to collect insurance proceeds for the damages caused by the hit-and-run.

Contact Your Insurance Company the Same Day

After the police, you’ll need to inform your insurance company that you’ve been a victim of hit-and-run. Most insurance policies require policyholders to report accidents within a set timeframe. Failing to do so can affect your coverage, so it’s best to make to reach out to your insurer as soon as possible after speaking with the police.

The best way to reach out to your insurer is in writing – that way there is a record that you reached out.  Regardless of whether you alert the insurer in writing or on the phone, don’t go into detail.  Instead, be brief and factual.  For example, I was a wreck on x date at y time and z location.  The police responded and wrote a report.  The other driver is at fault.  There is property damage to my car and injuries.  That’s it.

It’s important to remember that, while you have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company, and while that insurer can sometimes act as a vital source of assistance after an accident, that insurer exists to make money for its shareholders and its interests are not your interests. The more information you volunteer, and the more questions you answer, the easier it is for the insurance company to strategize on how to end up paying out as little as possible.

Keep any call quick and to the point. Don’t make any guesses about the details you don’t know, and don’t feel guilty about your report being less than complete. Your lawyer can help you fill in the gaps later, after the police, your doctor, and your mechanic have had time to do their work.

Preserve Any Evidence You Have

Obviously, in the ideal hit-and-run scenario — if there could ever be such a thing — the victim would get a clear look at the perpetrator’s license plate, and have the presence of mind to read and remember it.

If you do manage to catch that vital plate number, write it down immediately, keep it safe, and know that you’ve already taken a huge step toward getting compensation and holding the person who hurt you accountable.

In most real-life hit-and-run scenarios, of course, there are a million reasons why you might not be able to get this information. You might have lost consciousness after the impact, or been focused on regaining control of your vehicle, so that one impact wouldn’t become a pileup. Maybe the adrenaline simply trapped you in a freeze response at the crucial moment.

If you don’t have the license plate number (and even if you do), you can help your case by:

  • Taking pictures of the damage and the area where the accident took place.
  • Writing down any details you do remember, such as the color and shape of the at-fault vehicle, and which way the vehicles were facing and moving at the time of the collision.
  • Getting the contact information of any witnesses who can verify what happened.
  • Keeping a careful record of your medical expenses, vehicle repair or replacement expenses, and lost income. This won’t help you find the driver, but it will help you argue for a fairer settlement from whichever insurer you end up pursuing.
  • Asking nearby homeowners and businesses if they have security cameras pointed toward the street that might have captured the accident.

The security footage option comes with one important caveat: if the accident happened on the business’s property, that business’s financial interests are in conflict with your own. If that’s the case, either notify them with minimal details as you would your insurance company, or wait until your lawyer can reach out on your behalf.  The other issue was security footage: it is often overwritten quickly and so you need to get it preserved immediately.  A lawyer can help with that.

Hit-and-Run Drivers Who Are Caught May Be Liable for Additional Damages

The general rule after any traffic accident is that each driver is responsible for a percentage of the damages, based on their percentage of the fault.

Of course, most drivers can’t afford to pay for the costs of an accident all at once, which is why drivers are required to carry liability insurance. The driver pays a monthly premium to an insurance company, and in exchange, that company agrees to cover the cost of any damages that driver would be legally liable for. At least, that’s the basic idea — it usually takes legal intervention to make it a reality.

In the case of hit-and-run accidents, the hit-and-run driver is still responsible for the share of damages they caused, as normal, and they may also be subject to punitive damages and attorney’s fees – these are additional damages to deter or penalize the driver for running away.

Insurance companies legally cannot be forced to pay for punitive damages in most circumstances and so recovering these additional damages will often depend on whether the at fault driver has assetss.  Regardless though, most insurance policies do cover attorney fees.

A Good Hit-and-Run Lawyer Can Help You Explore Every Possible Recourse

If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one to a hit-and-run accident, you’ll need a lawyer’s help to collect the full compensation you deserve.

Having someone specifically in your corner can help you maximize your chances of finding the hit-and-run driver, beyond what help the police may be available to offer. Once the driver has been found, your lawyer can then help you establish the facts of how the accident happened and how it affected you, and hold the hit-and-run driver’s insurance company to its responsibilities.

If all efforts to find the hit-and-run driver fail, your lawyer’s task shifts toward seeking other sources of compensation, such as:

  • Your own auto insurance company, if you have uninsured driver coverage.
  • The owner of the property where the accident took place, especially if it’s a business that can encourage bad driving, like a bar.
  • The city where the accident took place, if the infrastructure is particularly accident-prone.

These are not first-choice options for accident compensation, which makes proving their liability more challenging, but not impossible.

The Stoddard Firm has experts in traffic law, personal injury, and wrongful death, and we’re passionate about making sure our clients get the resources they need to rebuild after an accident.

To get started discussing your case, reach out any time by phone or chat for a free consultation.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Atlanta Personal Injury LawyerMatt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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