Earlier this month, a 23-year-old suspect in St. Louis was charged with leaving the scene of an accident after a fatal hit-and-run.

The accident took the life of a 12-year-old boy. The suspect was driving at a high speed and continued on after hitting the pedestrian. Eventually, they located his car and he was tracked down. This case is particularly tragic because it involved the death of a young boy. Unfortunately, in our law practice representing the victims of reckless drivers we see these type of hit-and-run “accidents” all too often.

There can be a lot of reasons a hit-and-run driver flees the scene. First and foremost, he could be simply trying to avoid responsibility for the damage and injuries he caused. He may panic and just flee the scene. Other hit-and-run drivers flee the scene because they are uninsured or may be intoxicated. Similarly, they may have outstanding warrants on other cases. Really, the “Why” doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you do everything in your power to protect yourself and your family.

Here are some reminders of what to do if you are involved in an accident:

  • The driver involved in an accident should stop the vehicle (as soon as it is safe).
  • Make sure that the cars and the occupants are in a position of safety. You don’t want to be out on the shoulder of a dimly lit highway at night. If there are injuries involved it makes it all that much more difficult to ensure everyone is safe. Use your common sense and get help immediately.
  • The driver should call the police.
  • The driver should provide any basic first aid if possible to anyone that needs it.
  • Exchange information (contact information, insurance information, etc.).
  • Identify witnesses to confirm facts of the accident. Don’t count on the police. Often critical witnesses disappear or leave before the police get there. Take a name and phone number if you can.
  • If your accident involved a hit-and-run driver make sure you tell the police that important fact so it gets documented.
  • When you have time check in with your own insurance broker to make sure you have adequate auto insurance coverage including Un Insured Motorist (UM – which can cover you for the hit and run driver) and Under Insured Motorist (UIM – which covers you if the other guy does not have sufficient insurance).

Do not leave the scene of an accident, under any circumstances.

If the accident involved an unattended vehicle, the rules are slightly different. You should make every effort to find the property owner. Leave a written note with your contact information and take down the license plate of the car.

Drivers who do not follow these protocols can, at a minimum, receive a traffic ticket. In cases where there is a serious injury (or death, like this recent case), the driver can be looking at serious criminal charges.

Fortunately, most of us will never be the victim of a hit-and-run. If you are ever in such a situation, keep these things in mind:

  • Stay calm
  • Gather as much information as you can. Write down the model and/or make of the car, license plate numbers, time and location. Snap a photo if you can.
  • Resist the temptation to chase the driver. Focus your efforts on calling the police as soon as possible.