March 09, 2020
What should I do if the other driver leaves the scene of an accident, exchanges information with me but leaves before the police arrive?
Our firm has recently been hired by several different clients involved in car accidents, in which immediately after the accident, our client called the police. While waiting for police to arrive, the at-fault driver provided our client a copy of his or her insurance information, allowed our client to take a photo of their driver’s license and tag, and then drove away from the scene prior to police arriving.
These cases were not minor impact cases in which there were no injuries. These were medium-impact collisions in which our clients were hurt. When police arrived to the scene in each of these cases, the officer refused to write a report for some inexplicable reason. On one occasion, the officer claimed he could not get the other driver’s story and, thus, could not write a report. This is completely incorrect and unacceptable.
So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273 requires that:
“The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or property damage to an apparent extent of $500.00 or more shall immediately, by the quickest means of communication, give notice of such accident to the local police department if such accident occurs within a municipality. If such accident occurs outside a municipality, such notice shall be given to the office of the county sheriff or to the nearest office of the state patrol.”
For these clients, not only have the officers failed to investigate and cite the at-fault driver for causing the collision, they have also refused to write an accident report of any sort. This laziness can and will cause the injured party problems in the near future, as many insurance companies will fail to properly consider or address claims of damage or injury unless there is a police report.
In the situation where our client has a copy of the at-fault driver driver’s license, the best approach for our client may be to forego filing an insurance claim and instead choose to litigate the matter immediately. The hurried, at-fault driver who left the scene will not appreciate dealing with a lawsuit. It would have been much easier if he or she had stayed at the scene of the wreck and had his or her insurance involved from the get-go. But for our client, this may be the best strategy to ensure our client is appropriately and quickly compensated.
When the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the collision, the officer could cite (and arrest) the driver for hit and run. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270 requires that:
“(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of any person or in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident or shall stop as close thereto as possible and forthwith return to the scene of the accident and shall:
(1) Give his or her name and address and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving;
(2) Upon request and if it is available, exhibit his or her operator’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with;
(3) Render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the transporting, or the making of arrangements for the transporting, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such transporting is requested by the injured person; and
(4) Where a person injured in such accident is unconscious, appears deceased, or is otherwise unable to communicate, make every reasonable effort to ensure that emergency medical services and local law enforcement are contacted for the purpose of reporting the accident and making a request for assistance.
The driver shall in every event remain at the scene of the accident until fulfilling the requirements of this subsection. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.”
Thus, exchanging information properly negates the need for this type of interaction to be deemed a hit and run. However, the troubles with the insurance company are certain to present themselves when an officer refuses to write the accident report or call the at-fault driver for a statement.
So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
First, call 911 or ask for someone else to call 911. Then use your phone to take photographs and/or video, of the vehicles, any other damage, pictures of the scene, visible injuries, and documentation of anything that could possibly be used as evidence. Depending on the severity of the collision and your injuries, this may not be practical. But do so if you can, provided it is safe.
If there are witnesses present, get the names and contact information of those witnesses, especially if they witnessed the other driver refuse to remain at the scene. These witnesses can be useful when it comes time to process the claim or litigate the matter in court. You should try to persuade the other driver to remain at the scene. While at the scene of the accident, you can alert your own insurance company of the collision, and can inform them that the other driver is refusing to remain at the scene.
If the other driver leaves the scene of the collision before you can get any information – a true hit and run – then your uninsured motorist coverage comes into play. If you are not sure if you have uninsured motorist coverage, stop reading this article immediately and contact your insurance company. Uninsured motorist coverage will be your only avenue to recovery if you are injured by a hit and run driver (this would also apply to drivers who do not have insurance at all).
Although Georgia law does not require you to carry uninsured motorist coverage, failing to have this coverage is the type of mistake that could cost you thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This coverage should not be considered optional when there are thousands of drivers on Georgia’s roads at any given time who, if they hit you, will leave you with no way to recover for your medical bills from them.
Getting back to the issue at hand, it is important that you insist that the officer make a report. Not insisting on a report may seem like the polite thing to do, especially when dealing with a police officer, but in the end that decision can hit you hard in the pocketbook. We represent many clients who come to our firm after a vehicle collision who wish they could go back to those important moments immediately after the accident and do things a different way.
When you or someone you know has been involved in an automobile accident due to the negligence of someone else, call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.