Whether it’s a bump in a parking lot, or a runaway driver in a freeway collision, hit-and-run accidents are an unfortunate part of driving. AAA estimates that over 1 in 10 accidents are hit-and-run incidents. What should you do if you’re involved in one, and how can you stay on the right side of the law?
What is a Hit-and-Run Accident?
This is any collision in which one of the involved parties leaves the scene. That includes both accidents where one of the cars drives away and parking lot accidents in which the driver leaves no contact information. Accident laws apply in Wisconsin if the incident involves a privately owned vehicle and damages of $200 or more, or a government vehicle with damages of $1,000 or more.
You are required to notify the police of the accident as soon as possible, and you must stay at the scene until a report is filed. There is some leeway for practical concerns. It’s OK if you need to walk a short distance to get cell phone reception, so you can contact the police. In some areas, it may be safer to move your vehicles to the side of the road after a fender bender. However, if you leave the accident scene and come back, you can still be charged.
What Should I Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Call the police and let them pursue the vehicle. Chasing after the vehicle yourself may damage your car or lead you into getting into another accident.
Once you contact the police, gather as much information about the vehicle as possible. This includes the make, model and license plate. Knowing where the car struck your vehicle will help investigators match it with damage to the other vehicle. If the accident happened in a parking lot while you were away, document the location, the damage, and the time the vehicle was in the lot.
Take pictures of your vehicle. Pay particular attention to any paint left by the other vehicle. This can be used as evidence, and it will help you when filing an insurance claim.
Find witnesses who can explain what happened. You or the police will need to collect their names and contact information if they need to be questioned or brought in for testimony.
What Happens if the Culprit Can’t Be Found?
Once the person who left the accident is identified, then everything proceeds as usual when establishing fault and paying for damages. However, you may still be compensated even if the person can’t be found.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy, it will probably cover damages. Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage handles medical expenses, while uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) covers vehicle repairs. Wisconsin requires $25,000 of UMBI coverage per person and $50,000 per accident, but the state does not require UMPD. If you just bought the minimum coverage, you may want to add UMPD to protect your vehicle.
Uninsured motorist coverage cannot pay for hit-and-run damage in these states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, and Ohio. Even though you may buy your insurance policy in this state, local laws apply when you cross state lines.
I Hit a Parked Car. What am I Supposed to Do?
Find the owner of the car and tell them what happened. From there, you can file a police report. If you can’t contact the owner of the vehicle, leave a note with your name, address and plate number for your vehicle, along with an explanation of the accident.
What Happens to the Driver Who Leaves the Scene of the Accident?
Penalties vary from state to state. Here’s what happens when someone leaves an accident before reporting it in Wisconsin:
If there is only property damage, the offender is charged with a misdemeanor. This results in a fine of $300-$1,000, and a jail sentence up to 6 months.
Minor injuries bump up the charge to a Class A misdemeanor. The prison sentence can be as high as 9 months, while fines can reach $10,000.
Injuries classified as “great bodily harm” make the hit-and-run a felony. This is defined as any injuries that can cause death, disability or disfigurement. Sentences can be as high as 15 years, and fines as high as $100,000. If there’s a death, jail time may be up to 25 years.
We Make Accident Repair Simple
When you need collision repair, take your car to Merton Auto Body. We have an auto body estimation center and an on-staff appraiser to handle the insurance paperwork. That means you don’t have to deal with your insurance company, and you can get the best auto body repair with minimal delays. We’re in Sussex, just a few miles northwest of Pewaukee and a short distance from Lisbon, North Lake and Oconomowoc.