A hit-and-run accident can happen so fast. Maybe it was a car that came out of nowhere, ran a red light, and then raced off. Or one that rear ended you on the freeway … and didn’t even slow down.

Incidents are deemed a “hit-and-run” anytime an involved driver leaves the scene. The incident could be with another car, a pedestrian, or even an object like a lamppost.

There’s no question a hit-and-run can leave you shaky if you’re the victim. Here are 6 ways to handle the situation.

1. Don’t chase the other car

As tempting as it may be to chase down the driver and demand they pull over, it’s not safe. First of all, you’re likely to be driving unsafely as you pursue them. And secondly, you don’t know if the other driver is dangerous. Pull your car safely off the road and check on the wellness of all your passengers.

2. Call the police

Yes, even if you don’t think you have anything firm to report. Having a police report on file can help your insurance claim process go much smoother. When the police arrive, give them an overview of what happened but let them work it out. Allowing the officer to assess the situation without interfering, pointing fingers, or admitting fault will help.

3. Write down what you can

You’re probably upset and might feel scattered, but try to write down as many details as you can, even if they’re sketchy. What color was the car? What state was the license plate? What type of car was it? (Even knowing if it’s a sedan or van can help.) Which direction was it traveling? Did you catch any glimpse of the driver? If there was anyone in your car, see if they can help piece together any recollections.

4. Take photos of the scene and your car

These can be useful as you try to construct the accident report and subsequent insurance claim. Snap photos of nearby traffic signs, your injuries, anyone at the scene, other details (like drivers license, insurance, and registration), and anything else that might seem important. And remember to take more pictures than you think you need and from various angles.

5. See if there are witnesses

Many times a pedestrian saw the incident or another car will slow down to check on you. Ask them to wait and talk with the police to help corroborate what you saw. Most beneficial, of course, is if they were able to take down the license plate number. (And remember to be a Good Samaritan if you’re ever in the same situation!)

6. Call your insurance company

We are here to help. Make sure to contact us right away (download Esurance Mobile, our free app!) so we can start the claim process and get you back on the road.

What if you didn’t know it was a hit-and-run?

There’s actually another type of hit-and-run, other than a driver fleeing the scene. Sometimes you’ll pull over, assess the damage and then decide not to involve the police because it seems minimal. The driver shares their information, but later you find out it’s false and you have no way of tracking them down.

Having the police there would alleviate the situation. But at least write down their license plate number and photograph their car. If someone else is in the car, get their information as well in case you need to track one of them down later.

What if you’re the hit-and-runner?

If you hit an inanimate object, like a car in a parking lot, it can be tempting to flee the scene. But remember that there are often cameras, and if you fail to leave a note, it’ll likely be considered a hit-and-run. While penalties vary by state, you still can be charged with a misdemeanor, given a heavy fine, and potentially have your license suspended.

Bottom line is that it’s not worth it. Take the time to properly report the accident, even if you might incur costs to fix the damage.

And speaking of, now’s a good time to check your insurance coverage to make sure you’re adequately covered. Get a free quote today.

Safe and smart

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.