You Were in a Hit and Run But You Have the License Plate—What Should You Do?

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After a hit and run, move to a safe area and ensure that all parties involved are safe. Record as many details as you can about the fleeing driver and call the police to file a report.
You’ll also need to let your insurance company know about the hit and run. Collision coverage usually pays for any property damage in these situations.
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If you’re in a hit and run but have the license plate, here’s what you should do.
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Assess the situation

While the exact circumstances of each hit and run are different, your first step should always be to pay attention to your surroundings.
Are you in a dangerous location? If so, move yourself—and the car, if possible—to a safe area on the side of the road or away from oncoming traffic. If there is any sign of fire near gasoline, evacuate to a safe spot that’s further away.
If someone is injured, call for help as soon as possible. While an ambulance is en route, try to provide first aid.
Key Takeaway Ensure that everyone involved in the hit and run is physically stable and in a safe location.

Record everything

After you ensure that everyone involved is safe and uninjured, record as many details as you can about the accident. Getting the other car’s license plate is great, but every extra detail can help track down the driver.
Here are some of the details that can be useful for police:
  • Date, time, and location of the accident
  • Driver’s appearance
  • Car make
  • Car model
  • Car color
  • Any distinct characteristics on the car (bumper stickers, trims, etc.)
  • Any fallen debris
It’s also a good idea to check for witnesses. Having their contact information will be helpful in any police or insurance claim investigation.

What if I didn’t see the hit and run happen?

If a hit and run occurred when you weren’t in your vehicle (like in a parking garage or on the street), it may be harder to gather information. Look around the area and your car for any paint scraps or broken car pieces. Take pictures of any details.
Also be on the lookout for any nearby shop surveillance cameras. The police may be able to acquire that video footage and see who collided with your car.

Report the hit and run to the police

If you haven’t already, the next step is to call the police. In most states, the police will travel to the scene to take statements from you and other witnesses. This is the time to hand over any and all information for the police report, including the license plate number.
At this point, you should leave the investigation to the police. Stay in contact with law enforcement to check on how your case is progressing.
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Report the hit and run to your insurer

While the police conduct their investigation, you’ll also want to inform your insurance company that you were involved in a hit and run. Let them know that you’ve filed a police report, as it can lend legitimacy to your claim.
In most cases, you will be required to pay the collision deductible laid out in your policy—though some insurers offer collision deductible waivers. If you don’t have collision coverage, your policy won’t cover the damage and you’ll need to pay for repairs out of pocket.
If the license plate number and other details you provide enable the police to find the driver, your insurance company can file a claim against the driver responsible for the collision. Even if the driver is underinsured or completely uninsured, your underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance will kick in once the deductible is paid.
Maintaining contact with your insurance agency as they process the claim is also encouraged.

Find insurance coverage to protect you from hit and runs

Sometimes the driver responsible for the accident is never found. Without car insurance or collision coverage, you suffer even greater financial losses.
That’s why having great insurance is so important. And since liability insurance won’t cover damage to your vehicle, collision coverage is essential.
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FAQs

What is a hit and run?

A hit and run is a car accident where a driver runs into a pedestrian, car, or piece of property and flees the scene without providing their contact information. Accidents that harm pedestrians or property and go unreported to the police are also considered hit and runs.
Hit and runs are illegal in every state. Drivers who commit a hit and run will face various consequences depending on the damage.

I have a license plate for a hit and run—what should I do with it?

If you were able to get a license plate following a hit and run, count yourself lucky! Contact the police and your insurance company to file a report. They should be able to track down the vehicle and/or driver using the plate number.

What happens if you hit a car and leave the scene?

It depends on your proven reason for leaving, as well as the way you left.
  • If you went to seek medical assistance, you’ll likely face less severe repercussions. Hospital paperwork and witness statements will help prove that you sought medical aid.
  • If you left the scene after providing your contact and insurance information, that answer may depend on the state you live in. In California, you must share your contact and insurance information and wait for the police to arrive. If you leave beforehand, the accident will be considered a hit and run. This policy applies to the person who caused the accident and the victim.
You can typically face charges up to a year after leaving the scene of an accident if it’s a misdemeanor and up to three years if the hit and run is labeled a felony.
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