So you’ve been hit by a car.
If you’re conscious, you likely have more immediate things to worry about than how Toronto police, the city and others tried to warn you about the dangers of speeding drivers, risky behaviour and inattention — from both you and the people around you.
But never mind what led up to this moment, you’re probably hurt, wondering what to do next…
… and there goes the driver.
By the Star’s count, 39 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed on Toronto roads this year, many of them seniors and many on major arterial roads outside the downtown core. Dozens more have been seriously injured.
Several of those collisions ended with a driver fleeing the scene, such as the Scarborough crash this fall that left two women and a toddler in a stroller seriously injured on a sidewalk in broad daylight.
Crashes like the the one that left you knocked to the ground — watching the driver who hit you speed off into the distance.
So pick yourself up if you can. Here’s what experts say you should do next:
1. Seek medical attention
First thing’s first. If you’re hurt, you probably need medical attention.
“People are often in shock after a collision like this,” said Rajiv Haté, a personal injury lawyer for Kotak Personal Injury Law and Disability Law.
“It’s possible to think, ‘oh, I’m okay, I don’t need to go to the hospital,’ when in fact you do,” he said.
So, if you’re at all unsure about your injuries — especially if you took a hit to the head — it’s much better to call for help and get the advice of a paramedic, rather than go home only to decide later you did, in fact, need that hospital visit.
2. Take notes and look for witnesses
Assuming you don’t need emergency surgery, you should take notes and look for witnesses to the crash, says Toronto police Det. Brett Moore, who has investigated hit-and-runs with the Traffic Services squad.
Witness accounts can increase your chance of finding the driver, or and dash-cam footage of the crash. Any cameras pointing out to the street from nearby houses or businesses can also help.
If you’re mostly well, but not up to canvassing, another person should do this for you.
Write down any details you or anyone else remembers, even sketchy ones: the make, colour and model of the car, any distinctive modifications, the licence plate number, even if you only remember part of it.
Try to collect as much information as you can. Take photos, collect the names and driving information of witnesses who can’t stick around, and get the names, phone numbers and addresses of all the people you speak to.
These early stages are crucial, and the next person may not be able to track down the same witnesses.
“Don’t assume that police are going to do the entire investigation,” lawyer and road safety advocate Patrick Brown said,
If you have a lawyer, they could also help as an independent investigator, he said. Some could even search for forensic evidence.
3. Speak with police
Report the accident to police. The sooner the better.
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Failure to remain is a criminal offence, so police are likely to take the investigation seriously. The driver is also likely to face other charges, if they broke the law before hitting you.
Remember, it’s not necessarily against the law to cross mid-block, so don’t avoid talking to police just because you weren’t at a crosswalk. (Even if you were partially at fault in the crash — you were careless or distracted, say — the fact the driver fled is a separate and much more serious offence.)
Toronto police may ask that you to head to the closest collision reporting centre, where you’ll be asked to provide a statement. If you took notes soon after the crash, this step should be easier. Be sure to include the names of witnesses, or anyone you spoke to.
If you aren’t well, or you don’t remember much, ask someone to help with this.
4. Consider pursuing legal action
Personal injury lawyer Mario Cariati advises you to try and seek damages for your injuries.
Even if you don’t know who hit you, you can make a claim for accident benefits under your own car insurance.
If you or police successfully learn the identity of the driver, you can ask them to compensate you directly, or go through their insurance.
If the driver is uninsured, you can claim damages from your insurance.
Whatever way you proceed, the amount you succeed in leveraging from the driver or your insurance will depend on the evidence you have, Brown says. That’s why it’s so important you or someone close to you be an active participant in the investigation.
You can also claim damages from both the driver and the owner of the car, in the event those are two separate people.
If everyone involved in the collision was uninsured you can still ask for compensation from the provincial government through the Motor Vehicle Act and Claims Fund, which can give you up to $200,000 in compensation.
“This is a Hail Mary safety net,” said David Shellnutt, biking lawyer at Scher Law Professional Corporartion who says this fund is a saving grace for hit-and-run victims if they have filed a police report and were able to gather evidence.
This fund is available to victims regardless of whether the driver or pedestrian was in the wrong, Shellnutt said.
With Star files