Experiencing a hit-and-run in Massachusetts can be unsettling. The moments following such an incident are crucial, not only for your safety but also for your potential legal case. Here’s a comprehensive guide on the steps to take if you are a hit-and-run victim in the Bay State.
Stay Calm and Assess the Situation
Your first instinct might be to chase the driver, but it’s imperative to remain calm and prioritize safety. If you’re in traffic, move to a safe location to avoid any further accidents. Once you’re secure, check yourself and any passengers for injuries. Remember that adrenaline can mask pain, so it’s best to seek medical attention even if you feel fine.
Call the Police Immediately
Massachusetts law requires you to report any accident involving injury or significant property damage. Calling 911 not only ensures you get the medical help needed but also officially documents the incident. When the police arrive, give an honest and thorough account. The police report will be invaluable when you file an insurance claim.
Gather Evidence at the Scene
If it’s safe, try to collect as much evidence as possible:
- Take photos and videos of the scene, vehicle damage, and any injuries.
- Look for witnesses and get their contact information.
- Write down any details you remember about the fleeing vehicle, such as make, model, color, and any portion of the license plate number.
- Note the time, location, and any circumstances that might be relevant, like the traffic condition or weather.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Massachusetts is a no-fault state, which means your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) will cover your medical bills and other expenses, no matter who is at fault. If the hit-and-run driver is not identified, you may need to file a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage.
Seek Medical Attention
Even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured, it’s crucial to see a doctor. Some injuries, such as whiplash or concussions, may not be immediately apparent. Furthermore, a medical report provides evidence of your injuries, which is necessary for your insurance claim.
Keep Detailed Records
Maintain a file of documents related to the hit and run. This includes the police report, medical records, receipts for all of your expenses gained due to the accident, and any correspondence with your insurance company.
Know Your Legal Rights
Massachusetts laws are quite specific regarding hit-and-run incidents. According to Mass.gov, Chapter 90, Section 26, It is a criminal offense to leave an accident involving injury or property damage. Victims may have the right to receive compensation for medical bills, car repairs, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Consult with an Attorney
Consider consulting with a personal injury attorney experienced in Massachusetts law. An experienced lawyer will help you with the complexities of insurance claims and, if necessary, file a lawsuit to recover damages. In addition to providing a free consultation, our personal injury lawyers take cases on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid if you collect compensation.
Follow Up on the Investigation
Stay in contact with the police to see if there are any updates on the investigation. Additional evidence may come to light, or the driver may be identified. Your proactive involvement can keep your case active and encourage a thorough investigation.
Repair Your Vehicle
If your car is safe to drive, you may wait until the insurance matters are resolved before making repairs. However, if the vehicle is unsafe, you must have it repaired sooner. You should keep all receipts and reports from the repair shop, as these will be part of your insurance claim.
Take Care of Yourself
An accident is a traumatic event. It’s normal to experience a range of emotions, from anger to anxiety. When in need, don't be hesitant to ask friends, relatives, or a professional counselor for assistance.
Understand the Statute of Limitations
In Massachusetts, there is a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for personal injury and property damage. You have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. However, there can be exceptions, and a knowledgeable attorney can advise you on the deadlines that apply to your situation.
Avoid Quick Settlement Offers
After a hit-and-run, you might be contacted by an insurance adjuster offering a quick settlement. It’s important not to accept any offers or sign any documents without consulting an attorney. Early settlement offers are often lower than what you may be entitled to, especially before all the costs associated with the incident are known.
Be Wary of Social Media
In today’s digital age, it’s second nature to share experiences on social media. However, it’s best to refrain from discussing your hit-and-run accident online. Insurance companies and defense attorneys will use your social media posts against you, potentially compromising your claim.
Consider Your Long-Term Needs
Some injuries may have long-term consequences. When discussing your claim with your insurance provider or attorney, consider future medical care, lost earning capacity, and ongoing pain and suffering.
A hit-and-run accident in Massachusetts can be a harrowing experience, but knowing the appropriate steps to take can ease the aftermath. By staying informed and proactive, you can protect your rights and set the stage for a fair resolution. Safety should always be your top priority, followed closely by the legal and procedural steps that preserve your interests in the aftermath of such an unfortunate event. Remember, when in doubt, professional legal counsel can provide guidance tailored to your unique situation.
If you’ve been the victim of a hit-and-run in Massachusetts, understanding the state’s legal framework and your insurance policy can be the key to navigating this challenging time. Keep this guide in mind, and ensure your actions post-accident safeguard your health, property, and peace of mind.
Injured? The Office of Brandon J. Broderick, Car Accident Lawyers, Can Help
If the unfortunate happens and you’ve been injured in a car accident, don’t go at it alone. An experienced car accident lawyer can advocate for your best interest and pursue fair compensation for your damages. At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, you can count on us to work tirelessly for your quality of life. Our long track record of success has helped people like you move forward after sustaining an injury caused by another’s negligence.
Contact us now for a free legal review.