It happened: you got in an accident, and to make matters worse, you didn’t get the other driver’s info. Maybe you were flustered and simply forgot, maybe they wouldn’t divulge anything, or maybe it was even a hit-and-run. Regardless, the unfortunate fact is that the responsibility is now on you. But don’t panic, because we’re here to help guide you through.
If You Forgot to Get Their Info
Getting in an accident is stressful no matter the circumstances. It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by emotion and adrenaline in the moment, so if you get flustered and forget to get the other driver’s information, follow these steps
Make sure you aren’t hurt
No matter what, always give yourself and anyone who might’ve been in the car with you a once-over to check for injuries. Even if you feel fine, you may need medical attention: things like whiplash and brain injuries often don’t display symptoms right away, and shock can dull pain.
Call the police
You should always call the police in the event of an accident. If everyone seems to be unharmed, or the accident appears to be minor, you can use your area’s non-emergency police number. In cases of emergency, injury, or serious damage, dial 911. When they arrive on the scene, make sure you ask for a copy of the report as you may need it when filing your claim.
See what you can remember
Write down everything you can remember about the vehicle and/or individual, including things like the make and model, the color of the vehicle, and the license plate number, if you can remember it. You should also be as detailed as possible when noting the location of accident. This will be helpful when speaking with the police, and will also be helpful for your next step:
Notify your insurance company
Yes, you should notify your insurance company even if you don’t have the other driver’s insurance information. You should also notify them even if the accident was your fault! Most insurance companies have a “notification and cooperation clause”, which means that you need to tell them about any accident you are in, and then also cooperate with whatever investigation they decide to do. Notifying them is also helpful in case the other party somehow gets in touch with them—they can better help you if they already know the details and aren’t taken by surprise!
If the Other Driver Refuses to Give Their Info
Tempers can flare at the scene of an accident, and not everyone you meet will be cooperative in these kinds of situations. So if the other driver refuses to give their information, what are you supposed to do? In addition to the above steps, follow these steps:
Keep your cool
Even if the other driver is angry, don’t stoop to their level. Anything you say or do can be used against you, even if there aren’t any other witnesses. If the other driver becomes belligerent, stay in your car with the windows rolled up.
Call the police
Again, the police should be called no matter what, but especially in cases where the other party is not cooperating with you, they can intervene and get details you might not be able to get on your own. They can also help if the other driver decides to leave the scene. Which brings us to….
If the Accident Was A Hit-and-Run
If the other driver leaves the scene before you’re able to exchange information, it is technically a hit-and-run (even if the damage is minor), which is classified as a felony. Your next steps are very important, so in addition to the previous steps we’ve discussed, please:
Get to safety
Your first priority in this situation is yourself and any other passengers, as the other party involved didn’t stick around. Make sure everyone is in a safe place by moving as far off the roadway as possible. However, it’s important that you stay at the scene of the accident.
You get to play detective for this one, though it’s not as much fun in this situation as it was when you were a kid. However, please note that you should not get out of your car if you are still on the road or close to it. Being outside your vehicle near traffic is incredibly dangerous, so wait until you are in a safe location and/or police have arrived on the scene. Take photos of the damage to your car, and anything in the surrounding area that might provide evidence. After all, a photo of a paint transfer might help the police track down the offending vehicle.
Check for/speak with witnesses
See if anyone around you saw the accident and would be willing to provide details. They might have noticed things you didn’t, such as which direction the other car drove off in. Make sure to get their contact information in case the police or your insurance company need to get in touch with them.
Call the police
We’ve said it twice and we’ll say it again—always call the police in the event of an accident. This is possibly even more important in this situation! Report the hit-and-run to the police within 24 hours, although the sooner the better.
Accidents never happen at a “good time”, and we understand that these particular scenarios are especially frustrating. But knowing what to do next and following these steps will help you take control of the situation—and help you get back on the road.