What to do if you witness a hit and run

12 minute read Published on Jan 25, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

A blurred fast tram at night crossing the street

At some point in your life, you may be a witness to a hit-and-run crime. Witnessing a hit-and-run accident can be troubling, especially when there are serious injuries and damage. In this situation, do you know what to do as a witness and what your responsibilities are as a bystander? If not, there's no need to worry; the team at BrokerLink is here to let you know what to do if you witness a hit-and-run in the future.

What is a hit-and-run accident?

In Canada, there are two types of hit-and-runs as per the Criminal Code:

1. Failure to remain at the scene of an accident (property damage)

This kind of hit-and-run occurs when a driver departs from the scene of an accident where property damage has occurred without stopping, sharing information, or documenting the incident to authorities. Property damage includes other vehicles, fences, signs, or other physical structures.

2. Failure to remain at the scene of an accident (personal injury or death)

This is a more severe kind of hit-and-run where the driver flees the site of an accident where people are hurt or killed. When there is a personal injury or fatality, the responsible motorist must stay on the site, tend to the affected people, and notify the authorities of the occurrence.

In Canada, hit-and-run accidents are classified as crimes for both kinds of incidents. Depending on the degree of severity, whether there were any injuries or fatalities, and the particulars of the case, the punishments for these charges vary. Penalties might include jail time, fines, and licence suspensions.

This is why, even in minor incidents, it is crucial for those associated to remain on the scene, share information, and notify the relevant authorities of the situation. Remember, it's a serious offence and may result in criminal prosecution if someone leaves the scene of an accident.

Steps to take if you witness a hit-and-run

As a witness, you play an important role in providing objective information, including a statement on the sequence of events. This information can be especially valuable to the police report, to the victim of the incident, and to the insurance company if an insurance claim is filed. Here is a closer look at what to do after a hit-and-run accident:

1. Make sure you are safe

After carefully manoeuvring your car to the side of the road and away from the collision, activate the emergency (or hazard) lights to warn other motorists in the area.

Evaluate the current risk and keep an eye out for any potential risks, such as moving vehicles, fluid leaks, or damaged structures in your immediate vicinity.

2. Prioritize calling emergency services

Call emergency services if there are any severe injuries. Give specifics regarding what happened and the victims' present state of health.

3. Take pictures of the scene

Capture photos and videos and record the scene if it is safe to do so. Take photos of the fleeing car's licence plate, what happened to the other vehicles, and the area around them.

Keep a record of the weather because it may come in handy later.

4. Remember the details of the accident

Make a list of the vehicle's make, model, colour, and any other unique characteristics.

Write down (or photograph) the entire or partial number on the licence plate, and, if relevant, attempt to recall the province where the plate was issued.

5. Provide care to the injured person(s)

As you wait for emergency personnel to arrive, assist injured parties if you have received first aid training.

6. Wait for law enforcement

Once the police arrive, you'll be asked to complete a witness statement. To the best of your ability, provide as much information as possible, including:

  • Your name, address and contact details
  • Time and place of the hit-and-run incident
  • Licence plate number of the fleeing vehicle
  • Vehicle description (colour, make & model)
  • Driver’s description
  • Description of what you saw and if there were any other witnesses

By following these detailed steps, you contribute to the thorough investigation of the accident and help authorities hold the responsible party accountable. Your quick and precise response is valuable in supporting the victims and ensuring justice is served.

If you witness a hit-and-run accident with an unattended car, leave a note if you can't find the driver. Provide your contact information and details of the incident in your note and place it in a visible location, such as under the windshield wipers.

Submitting a witness statement may seem like a burden , especially if you're in a hurry. Remember, the victim of the hit and run and the police will greatly appreciate any assistance you provide.

What not to do after a hit-and-run accident

There are some things you should never do after seeing or participating in an accident involving a hit-and-run driver in order to protect yourself, abide by the law, and help the investigation, including:

Don't chase after the vehicle

Refrain from following or pursuing the car that left. This may exacerbate the issue and bring on further accidents or threats.

Don't leave the scene

Remain at the accident scene until the police arrive, they record a police report, and release you. An early departure could make the investigation more difficult.

Don't change the scene

Unless there is an imminent risk to safety, do not move anything at the accident scene. The investigation may be impacted if the scene is changed.

Don't be afraid to share information

Don't keep details from law enforcement. Give a thorough report that includes your findings, any witness testimonies you have, and the supporting documentation you have gathered.

Don't solely rely on your memory

Although it's beneficial to memorize specific details, don't rely just on memory. If at all possible, document, photograph, or write down the specifics you noticed as soon as the incident happened.

Don't talk about what happened on social media

Before giving the police information, don't talk about the hit-and-run on social media. The investigation may be hampered by speculation or incorrect details.

You can aid authorities in their attempts to hold the liable party accountable by enabling a quicker investigation process by refraining from taking these steps. Remember to put the welfare of individuals involved in the accident, law enforcement cooperation, and safety first.

What are the most common types of car accidents?

Car accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. That said, some collisions are more common than others. Here is a closer look at common car accidents below:

1. Distracted driving

Any action that takes focus away from driving is considered distracted driving. This can involve using in-car entertainment systems, texting, making phone calls, eating, and changing the radio. Unfocused drivers are more inclined to overlook important cues, which increases the risk of crashes.

It is essential for motorists to put driving first and abstain from using their phones or other distracting activities. Distractions can be minimized by using hands-free gadgets, setting your GPS before you drive, and taking breaks on lengthy trips.

2. Bad weather conditions

Road safety can be severely impacted by poor weather conditions like rain, snow, ice, fog, or strong winds. As such, unfavourable weather increases the risk of accidents by reducing visibility, traction, and overall vehicle control.

Motorists need to increase following distances, modify their pace to suit the road's circumstances, and ensure their cars are properly equipped for the season and time of day. For example, using snow tires or headlights makes the car easier for other people to see when it is dark outside.

3. Driving over the speed limit

Driving too fast makes it harder for motorists to respond to risks. It also has a significant impact on the number of crashes as well as crash severity. It's essential to obey the speed restrictions and modify your speed according to the state of the road. Speed limits should be respected by drivers, particularly in work zones, school zones and residential neighbourhoods.

4. Driving under the influence

Operating a vehicle while under the influence of narcotics, alcohol, or prescriptions that impair cognitive and motor abilities is considered impaired driving. Because of associated poor judgment, delayed reaction times, and diminished coordination, the risk of accidents is increased dramatically while you're under the influence.

Never use drugs or alcohol while operating a vehicle. If you are intoxicated, plan for another form of transportation, use public transit or designate a sober driver.

Does car insurance protect against hit-and-run accidents?

Yes, hit-and-run accidents tend to be covered under car insurance. However, whether or not it is covered depends on the specifics of the coverage. Here is a closer look at the different types of auto insurance and whether you’re protected against hit and runs:

Collision coverage

Regardless of who is at blame, collision car coverage is a type of auto coverage that covers the cost of replacing or repairing your vehicle in the event of a collision involving another vehicle or item.

Even if you are at fault, it still covers collision-related damages, such as those from accidents with other cars or objects, but you still have to pay a deductible for repairs. In contrast, hit-and-run incidents in which the offender cannot be located are usually not covered directly by collision insurance.

Comprehensive insurance

Comprehensive car coverage protects your vehicle against non-collision occurrences, including theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and collisions with animals. Subject to a deductible, comprehensive coverage may occasionally pay for repairs to your car if it is damaged by an unidentified or uninsured driver. That said, you should speak with your insurance provider to confirm whether this term is included in your specific policy.

Accident forgiveness

Some auto insurance companies include a benefit called accident forgiveness, which protects policyholders from increased rates following their first at-fault collision. It is a means by which insurance companies recognize safe driving records and provide pardons for infrequent infractions.

Accident forgiveness does not always apply to hit-and-run cases; it usually only applies to accidents in which the policyholder is at fault. Accident forgiveness might not apply in a hit-and-run situation where the responsible party is undetermined. It's important to review the fine print in your insurance policy and ask your provider about the specifics of their hit-and-run accident coverage.

Liability insurance

In the event that you are at fault, liability car insurance pays for the expenses of any injuries and property damage you cause to other individuals. It doesn't cover damage to your car or personal injuries.

Unfortunately, hit-and-run incidents in which the responsible party cannot be located are not covered by third-party liability car insurance.

Uninsured motorist insurance

When you are in a car accident with another driver who is at fault and their insurance is either insufficient or nonexistent, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects you from financial loss.

It can additionally be applied to hit-and-run incidents in which the responsible individual cannot be located.

For example, if you are hurt in a hit-and-run accident and you don't know who caused it, your underinsured motorist policy may assist in paying for your medical bills, lost income, and other incident-related damages. This coverage basically fills in the gaps left by the at-fault driver's inadequate or nonexistent insurance.

You must confirm with your insurance company the specifics and limitations of your uninsured motorist coverage to make sure you have enough protection in the case of a crash involving a hit-and-run driver.

Contact BrokerLink today

Dealing with your insurance provider can be daunting, which is why the BrokerLink staff is available to assist you in selecting auto insurance that fits your needs both financially and as a driver.

Please give us a call directly if you would like to talk with an expert broker about your current coverage or if you have any questions.

Alternatively, you can come to see us at one of our numerous locations across the country if you would rather have a face-to-face meeting!

In a hurry? Use our free online quotation tool to get personalized insurance quotes in the comfort of your own home.

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Hit and run accident FAQs

What evidence is needed to convict a hit-and-run Canada?

In Canada, obtaining a conviction in a hit-and-run case requires a variety of evidence categories. Eyewitness reports are essential because they offer personal knowledge of the event. Visual proof can be provided by surveillance film captured by neighbouring cameras, and licence information, if it is accessible, can help identify the offender. Furthermore, evaluating the damage to the involved automobiles can yield important forensic data. It is imperative that the hit-and-run be reported to the authorities as soon as possible, along with any evidence gathered. Developing a solid case and securing a successful prosecution requires collaboration with law enforcement throughout the investigation process.

Should you help if you see a car accident?

Absolutely, if you see an automobile accident, you should try to aid. If trained, safely evaluate the situation, contact emergency services, and give injured people any essential assistance. In the vital moments prior to expert help arriving, help might be critical. Examples of this include traffic direction and first aid. Prioritizing safety and abiding by the law are crucial if you want to help accident victims. Your efforts could have a big impact on reducing injuries and guaranteeing that the event is handled quickly. Remember, if you were ever involved in an accident, you would want someone to take the same action.

How do I report a hit-and-run in Ontario?

In Ontario, Canada, you can report a hit-and-run by doing the following. First and foremost, make sure that you and others are safe. Gather details about the event, such as the time, place, and description. Take note of the information from the other vehicle and any witnesses. Report any injuries or property damage exceeding $2000 to the authorities within a day. Within 48 hours of the incident, report minor property damage to a collision reporting center. Give the investigation all the information you can. Make sure your insurance claim is processed quickly by reporting the hit-and-run to your insurance provider.

How much is car insurance per month in Ontario?

This is a common question that most drivers have. In truth, the price of auto insurance varies significantly and is impacted by a number of factors. These include your location, coverage limitations, car type, age, gender, and driving record. Residents of Ontario may pay anything from $100 to $300 a month on average. But keep in mind that this is only an estimate and specific quotes may vary. The cost of insurance may increase for drivers who are younger, less experienced, or have a history of collisions. Getting quotes from various insurance companies is a good idea, and you may adjust the coverage to fit your needs.

Does witnessing a hit-and-run have legal consequences for me?

Being a witness to a hit-and-run usually carries no legal consequences. However, in order to help law enforcement with their investigation, you play a critical role in supplying information. The law encourages people to come forward with information that could help identify the person who is at fault. Even though you might be called to testify if the matter gets to court, simply being present when the incident happened does not hold you accountable. In actuality, your participation may help ensure that the matter is successfully resolved and that the guilty party is brought to justice.

Can I remain anonymous when reporting a hit-and-run in Canada?

In Canada, the reporting method and province determine whether or not an individual can stay anonymous when reporting a hit-and-run. Generally speaking, you can get in touch with Crime Stoppers, an anonymous reporting service that is accessible in a lot of Canadian areas. Without disclosing their identity, people can report crimes, including hit-and-runs, to Crime Stoppers. While anonymity may entice people to come forward with important information, complete cooperation with law enforcement is essential to guaranteeing a comprehensive investigation and settlement of the hit-and-run occurrence.

Is there a statue of limitations for reporting a hit-and-run claim in Canada?

The time frame for when a hit-and-run accident must be reported in Canada varies depending on the province or territory. Generally speaking, there might not be a particular statute of limitations for filing a hit-and-run report. Nonetheless, it's critical to realize that a thorough investigation requires that the occurrence be reported as soon as possible. Waiting too long to report a hit-and-run can complicate the process of gathering evidence and identifying the responsible party.

Is it possible to remove a hit-and-run from a driver's record?

Removing a hit-and-run from one's driving record is generally tricky. Serious driving offences can often stay on a driver's record for a long time, especially if they involve leaving the scene of a collision. Speak with your insurance company or an attorney to learn about the laws and removal options that apply to the area you live in.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.