So, you’re meandering along when you get rear-ended on the road. You brake to look, and all you see is a speeding car with its front bumper barely hanging on. Ladies and gents, you are now a victim of a hit-and-run.
What do you do? What shouldn't you do? Let's see if we can help shed some light on what steps you can take so that if the situation arrives, you're ready.
1. Do not chase
The first thing to keep in mind is, never get involved in a car chase. It is extremely dangerous and might result in another accident, further damage to your vehicle, or possibly even bodily harm. I mean, what are you going to do when you catch up to the other driver?
In other words, do not run after the offending vehicle as it speeds away from the scene of the accident. It will also make it hard for the police to establish fault and might compromise your situation.
2. Assess your situation
What you should do is check yourself and your passengers. Are you hurt? Are your passengers (usually family or friends) hurt or are they in shock? Look after them before alighting from the vehicle.
If you and the other passengers are okay, go outside and assess the situation. Is fuel leaking? Is there a fire or smoke? If the answer is yes, get yourself and your passengers to a safer spot on the sidewalk. If there is no fire hazard, take photos from all angles, close-up and at a distance, to properly frame the situation for the authorities.
After detailed photo documentation of the incident and the damage to your vehicle, move it out of the way of traffic to avoid causing road congestion.
3. Call the authorities
Now that you've calmed down, call 911. Inform them of the situation, your location, and details they may need to know like whether an ambulance and/or a fire truck is necessary.
A hit and run is a serious offense and very much punishable by law. Fleeing the scene of an accident turns it into a crime scene per the Revised Penal Code which states that ‘anyone who shall fail to render assistance to another whom he has accidentally wounded or injured’ will receive the penalty of arresto mayor (imprisonment of one month and one day to six months).
As you wait for first responders, prepare the details they may need for the investigation such as the make, model, color, and license plate number. It would also help to note the direction it came from and where it was going. Get a description of the driver and passengers. Were there any striking accessories/markings on the vehicle? Write all the information down.
You can also call the PNP Hotline at 0917-847-5757 or the LTO Citisend Hotline for Assistance at 1-342-LTO (1-342-586).
4. Speak to eyewitnesses and look around for cameras
Eyewitnesses will be key to what happened, so speak to any in the area who saw what happened and are willing to give a sworn statement to the police. What they say may prove relevant during the police investigation.
But another important thing to keep in mind is to look around for CCTV cameras that may have captured the incident. Be prepared to speak to the people that manage or own the camera systems and ask for assistance to get copies of the footage.
If you have a dashcam that captured the incident, that will prove very helpful.
5. Call your lawyer
For many, one of the first numbers they will call after 911 will be family. But before doing so, we suggest calling your lawyer.
That's actually something we would advise for any situation that may involve any kind of legal proceeding (e.g. traffic adjudication, violation) or the authorities (e.g. police, traffic enforcers). An attorney should be one of your first phone calls in such situations because you will be guided on how to manage it and come out (hopefully) OK.
Calling a lawyer after a traffic accident isn't too common in the Philippines, but it should be.
What if it was me?
But let’s look at the other scenario, one where you (inadvertently) caused the accident. It could be a pedestrian, a biker, a motorcycle rider, or even an object like a parked car.
In any scenario, don’t flee the scene of the accident. I understand that it must be a scary situation for you, being the cause of the crash whether intentionally (road rage) or unintentionally (texting while driving), but just don’t. It is a wrong move any way you look at it, so if you are involved in an accident, especially if you are the reason for the collision, forget about your busy day. Stay and sort it out.
Stop right when and where the crash occurred and check yourself/passengers. If everyone is okay, check on the driver and passengers of the other vehicle.
Whatever you do, don't panic. And refer to #5 on the list above and call your lawyer. You may have caused an accident, but you have the right to due process too.
There is an exception...
Is there an occasion when fleeing the scene of the accident is permissible? Technically there is none, but there is one that can be argued in court: if you feel imminent danger.
If you get into an accident and you see the driver of the other car getting out angrily and holding a weapon, then you can exercise your judgment and drive away from a potentially worse situation. If you hit someone and you've got an angry and violent mob formed, find a way to leave. If a random car bumps yours in the night out of the blue in the middle of a dark and rather empty road, then exercise your judgment and speed away.
In those situations, however, do not just go home. Instead, the best recourse is to head to the safety of the nearest police precinct and explain the situation. Oh, and don't forget to call your lawyer too.
Remember to always keep your wits about you during a hit-and-run incident. The calmer you are, the better you will be able to handle the situation and remember the necessary details authorities need to find the culprit.