How Are Hit and Run Accidents Investigated?

Published on May 7, 2024, by Forbes Law Offices | Car Accidents

How are hit and run accidents investigated?

After an accident, you expect the other driver to stop, provide their contact information, and wait for the police. But what happens when the individual leaves the scene of the incident? That is known as a “hit and run” accident.

Unfortunately, these types of crashes leave victims without many answers. If law enforcement cannot find the responsible driver, the injured parties may be unable to seek compensation for their injuries and damages.

At Forbes Law Offices, we understand the frustrations associated with these incidents. Let’s examine how hit-and-run accidents are investigated.

What Is a Hit and Run Accident?

You may not know, but there are several types of hit-and-run accidents. Depending on the type of incident, it can be harder for law enforcement to investigate the incident. Hit-and-run accidents can be classified into different types based on the actions of the driver.

The most common one is the “no stop” situation. In these incidents, the driver hits someone or something and leaves the scene without stopping.

Unfortunately, these types of hit-and-runs can be difficult to investigate. Since there may be no direct interaction between the driver and the victim, it is hard to identify the driver responsible for the accident.

Another type of hit-and-run accident is the “partial stop” scenario. This occurs when the driver stops briefly. However, they fail to provide identifying information, such as name, contact, or insurance details to the victim. In these cases, some drivers may intentionally provide false information, so they cannot be held accountable.

Finally, the last type of hit-and-run accident is the “no assistance” situation.

With this, the driver stops but does not render assistance, such as helping injured victims, calling for medical assistance, or arranging transportation to a hospital. Drivers in West Virginia are required to give their information and render aid after an accident.

How Are These Incidents Investigated?

When a hit-and-run report is received, police officers respond promptly to the scene. As they arrive, their first priority is to secure the area so they can prevent further accidents and ensure the safety of victims, witnesses, and other motorists. Flares, cones, or other equipment help to create a safe perimeter around the site.

Once the area is secured, the officer will ask you about the incident. What happened? Do you remember any details of the vehicle or driver? You need to remember as much as possible. Any little clue, like the car’s color or the driver’s clothes, could help to find the perpetrator of the incident.

Hopefully, there were other witnesses to the accident. The responding officer will receive a detailed statement from them. They will also ask specific questions about the incident, the fleeing vehicle, and the driver. With this information, law enforcement can have a clear picture of what happened and help identify the driver and the vehicle involved.

Along with witness statements, officers also collect physical evidence at the scene. They take photographs of the accident site, including vehicle damage, debris, and skid marks. In many cases, this photographic evidence helps reconstruct the accident.

Sometimes, surveillance cameras or dashcams may have captured the incident. If this happens in your case, the officers will review video footage from these cameras. This can provide critical evidence in identifying the driver and the vehicle.

After the Initial Incident

The police start their investigation by trying to locate the driver responsible for the accident.

They use various methods to identify the vehicle and driver involved. Your statements, eyewitness accounts, video footage, and physical evidence can help pinpoint who may be responsible for the hit-and-run.

Often, nearby cameras and surveillance footage can provide details about the identity of the driver. Traffic cameras and toll booth records can provide additional information about individuals who may have been in the area at the time of the incident.

The investigating officers will look for paint transfer, broken parts, or other evidence left at the scene to help identify the vehicle. In these cases, the offending drivers may have had damage to their vehicle.

Hopefully, there are at least minimal details about the make, model, and color of the car.

With that information, an alert can be sent to other law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for a damaged vehicle.  If you or another witness did not gather any relevant details, it could be difficult to find the driver.

Hopefully, someone was able to obtain the license plate or a partial number from the other vehicle.

The police can run the license plate search to trace the vehicle owner. West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicle records can provide information about registered owners. In serious cases, especially if there are injuries, law enforcement may also seek tips from the public through press releases, social media, and local news. Many times, community involvement provides valuable leads in identifying the driver.

Sometimes, the investigation team will need to use other methods, such as forensic analysis of the evidence gathered at the scene of the accident, to identify the driver. Once the driver is found, they will face legal consequences, which could result in criminal charges and civil penalties here in West Virginia.

Why Identifying the Driver Matters

Without the identity of the driver, you cannot hold anyone responsible for the accident.

You have the right to pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver. Identifying them makes sure that you can seek compensation for medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering. Additionally, these lawsuits allow victims to be held accountable for their reckless actions.

Hopefully, you will never be involved in a hit-and-run incident. However, if you are, there are several steps that police will take to identify the responsible party. After an accident, always make sure to gather details of the driver and the type of vehicle. Those could be clues to help the investigators find the responsible drivers of the crash.

Once you have identifying information for the driver who struck you available, consider reaching out to an attorney to discuss your injuries caused by the Charleston, WV car crash.