All accidents are bad news but hit and run accidents are even more devastating for the victims.
Here’s a rundown on information that can help you if you are the victim—or perpetrator—of a hit and run accident.
Why Do Hit And Runs Happen?
A hit and run accident, if you don’t already know, is an accident where the person driving a vehicle that hit another vehicle, a cyclist or a pedestrian, makes the choice to leave the scene of the accident.
Why do they run?
Well, you’d have to ask them, but the more common reasons are things like not having a license or insurance (or up to date versions of these), being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, having another reason to not want to interact with the police, or straight up panicking.
There is the rare case when someone doesn’t realize they’ve hit another vehicle or a pedestrian, and just carries on with their business, though this the exception rather than the rule.
If You Hit Another Vehicle, A Cyclist Or A Pedestrian…
If it’s a minor accident, a fender bender for example, you must stop safely, check the damage and for injuries, and exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver/person. If it is more serious, with a lot of damage or there are injuries, you must stay put and contact the police.
Failing to remain at the scene of an accident is serious. It’s an offense under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act if you hit another vehicle and don’t remain at the scene. It can become even more serious if it involves a pedestrian or cyclist and that person or persons are injured; the driver could end up with a criminal charge under the Criminal Code, such as “failing to stop” and/or criminal negligence, leading to sentences as high as 10 years in jail, depending on the severity and circumstances.
“Duty of person in charge of vehicle in case of accident
200 (1) Where an accident occurs on a highway, every person in charge of a vehicle or street car that is directly or indirectly involved in the accident shall,
(a) remain at or immediately return to the scene of the accident;
(b) render all possible assistance; and
(c) upon request, give in writing to anyone sustaining loss or injury or to any police officer or to any witness his or her name, address, driver’s licence number and jurisdiction of issuance, motor vehicle liability insurance policy insurer and policy number, name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle and the vehicle permit number. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 200 (1); 1997, c. 12, s. 16.
(2) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both, and in addition the person’s license or permit may be suspended for a period of not more than two years. 2009, c. 5, s. 54.” (Source)
What About A Hit And Run On A Parked Vehicle?
That is still considered to be a hit and run.
In this day and age of security cameras, both on private property and in public spaces, it’s not a good idea.
If a car was legally parked and you hit it, either while parking your own or just going by, you need to stop and make an attempt to locate the owner. Failing that, you need to leave your contact information on the car with an explanation of what happened.
If you were the victim of a hit and run while your vehicle was parked and you weren’t present, report your accident to an Ontario collision reporting centre, particularly if the damage was significant. Your insurance company will want to know that you’ve done that.
If You Are The Victim Of A Hit And Run
Collect information—First, try and get any information that you can. A partial license plate and a vehicle make, model and colour can help the police track them down.
Try and flag down witnesses to the incident who might have seen more or have more information.
Get their contact information so that the police can speak to them, if they are unable to stay at the scene. If you can, take pictures of the scene, your vehicle’s positioning and the damage. If the car is driveable, it’s best to move it to a safe place as soon as possible.
Call the police—If you were injured, whether as the driver, a pedestrian or a cyclist, call the police immediately.
If you weren’t injured and only your vehicle was damaged, you must report the incident to police or a collision reporting centre within 24 hours in order to ensure that your insurance company classifies the incident as involving an unidentified driver, for which even the most basic policy carries coverage for.
Call your insurance company—Claims that are tagged as involving an unidentified motorist are considered not at fault.
Of course, under the No-Fault system that Ontario works within, you would still be going to your own insurer for coverage, but you would not suffer penalties, such as increased premiums, if you are not at fault.
You will still have to pay your collision deductible, unless the other driver is found, but if there was a lot of damage or injuries, that might be the least of your concerns. If you were a cyclist or pedestrian and don’t carry a car insurance policy, you have options for claiming for your injuries under the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVACF), but these claims are limited with fairly low caps, so the more information you have on the vehicle, the better.
Call a lawyer—In addition to helping you manage the insurance portion of your claim, there could be a civil action possible under tort law, were the ‘unidentified driver’ be eventually discovered.
All drivers have a ‘duty of care’ when they are at the wheel of a vehicle; ignoring that duty can have major consequences.
The reality is that a hit and run situation can be very serious, particularly when it involves a cyclist or pedestrian. Cover your bases and check in with a personal injury lawyer who can give you the best advice as to your next steps. You’ll never regret doing the next right thing!