In a motor vehicle collision where the person at fault drives away without leaving contact information, the testimony of a bystander can be extremely valuable. A witness may be able to describe the car that left better than the person in the car that was hit, especially if the car was badly damaged and its occupants were injured. Because of this, you should always stay to see if you can help when you witness a hit and run. It may not be convenient for your schedule, but the occupants of the damaged car need your help. Here are three steps you should take before leaving the scene of a hit and run that you witness.
1. Record license number
If you're close enough to see the license plate of the car as the perpetrator drives off, write down the license plate number immediately. Getting a good look at the make, model, and condition of the car is also important, but you can write those things down later after calling 911 (if needed). Writing down the number at once, though, is crucial to ensure accuracy.
2. Assess the situation
Next you should try to find a way to determine if the car's passengers and driver are injured. If the car is parked and unoccupied, you can skip this step and go straight to the next step. However, if there is anyone in the car, wait a moment for occupants to emerge; if they don't, approach the car carefully. You'll need to be mindful of any hazards, such as the possibility that the car may start suddenly, catch fire, or in rare cases even explode. Once you've approached the car, ask the occupants if they're all right. If there are injuries, or if you know there's someone in the car but they don't seem to be moving or responding to your calls, dial 911. Stay until emergency personnel arrive so that you can give a statement to the police, and try to calm any injured persons but be sure not to move them.
3. Leave your information
If you call 911 and the police come, you may be asked to give your information directly to them, including things like your contact info and a description of what happened as well as the type of car that caused the hit-and-run and its license plate number. If the car hit was in a parking lot and there was nobody inside, find a piece of paper to record the information on and leave the note where the car's owner will be sure to see it before driving the car again (such as taped to the windshield or tucked under the windshield wipers). This note should include:
- Your information (name and contact info)
- Your description of the incident
- The license number and description of the other car
Follow these three steps to be a responsible and helpful citizen the next time you're near enough to witness a hit-and-run situation. Remember, this is not legal advice, so be sure to consult a car accident attorney, like Finkelstein Joel M or another firm, if you still have questions.