This is so frustrating.
January 21, 2009 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Bought new car Tuesday. Car got squooshed in a hit and run four days later. I only have liability insurance. Oh, crap. How can I track down the guy who hit me? I have some information about him, but the police are being very unhelpful. Help, Metafilter detectives!

My pretty new Subaru Forester (new to me -- it's a 2000, but was in lovely shape) was terribly maimed in a hit and run accident on Saturday night in Brooklyn, NY.

The accident was witnessed by a couple of people, I have their contact information. One of them made a police report. The police report described the truck that hit mine and another car as an 8-wheel truck with commercial plates. The truck is very likely blue, due to the long streak of blue paint along the side of my car. The truck that hit me is very likely to be damaged enough to require repair, because it completely destroyed one car in the impact, and really seriously took a bite out of mine.

The police report contained a license plate number, but my insurance company ran the plates and said that it didn't match anything.

I want the police to make at least some effort to find the person who hit my car. This is the first car I've had since 1995, I really don't have the money to get it fixed, and I really don't want to have spent all that money for nothing.

I have called the police precinct where the accident report was filed, and they said I have to call back between midnight and 7 am on thursdays or fridays to reach the relevant officer.

Questions: Is there anything I can do that I'm not doing to try to track down the person who hit my car? It's a commercial vehicle, so it's likely insured, and it's likely to need repairs.
If I pursue something with the police, is the officer who took the accident report the only person I can talk to?
Is this incident likely to be investigated, or are the police just going to ignore it?
What other options might I have?

Thanks in advance, metafilter.
posted by jennyjenny to Law & Government (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What other options might I have?

If you have a new car, did you take out a loan? Most banks or credit unions will probably require you to have collision insurance for the car before granting an auto loan.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:12 PM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: No, it's a 2000, I got it used and paid in full, no loans.
posted by jennyjenny at 4:16 PM on January 21, 2009

In many areas, hit and run collisions might take a back seat to more violent crimes. With property damage, the higher the amount, the greater the chance the police will take an interest.

Perhaps you can join forces with the owner of the other car? If they have insurance, their company is trying to hunt down the truck. And together, you present something more interesting (higher dollar amount of damage) to the police.

You might look for security cameras (private and public) pointed at the area that might provide more information on the truck and driver, and then follow up with the owners of the cameras asking for a copy of their footage.

Or, if the dollar amount (what you paid for the car, or what you need to pay to fix it) is high enough, you might consider hiring a private investigator to track down the driver who caused the damage.
posted by zippy at 4:16 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe someone in the neighborhood received a shipment delivered by said truck. This may involve some door-to-door.
posted by rhizome at 4:18 PM on January 21, 2009

On police shows they call or go around to body shops looking for a blue commercial truck with front end damage.
posted by LarryC at 4:26 PM on January 21, 2009

If the plate given was incorrect my guess would be the police won't investigate any further.

You don't say where you are but I'm guessing you're in a city big enough that randomly checking mechanic's isn't going to be very helpful, although you could try; the police almost certainly don't have the time/staff to do that themselves. Also, mechanics often like being paid by their customers and are under no obligation to actually tell the police the truth or even let them into their shops....there are a lot of mecahnics who know full well that the people paying cash are avoiding insurance claims and they often have no problem playing along and losing the paperwork.

The other thing you need to look at is what finding the truck is going to actually do for you... They're not just going to cut you a cheque, you'll have to prove it was them. You're going to need a lawyer, you're going to need an expert witness to testify that the damage on their truck matches the damage on your vehicle, and you're going to have a very uphill battle in court if the one thing you do have is a witness who gave the wrong plate and a description of "maybe" blue.
posted by tiamat at 4:45 PM on January 21, 2009

Notify all local auto body shops in your area (and if you are extra diligent, full-service gas stations as well) that you were a hit-and-run victim, and you are attempting to find the truck that damaged your car. Give them as full description of the truck as possible, including the license plate. If you can, consider offering a reward for help.

Additionally, offer a reward on Craigslist for information leading to the apprehension of the hit-and-run truck and its driver. Again, give full description of the truck.

Though it's possible the truck is from out of area, you may get lucky. Best wishes to you.
posted by terranova at 4:52 PM on January 21, 2009

completely destroyed one car in the impact, and really seriously took a bite out of mine

Can you contact that other victim? That person or their insurance company may have some additional information.
posted by sageleaf at 5:58 PM on January 21, 2009

On police shows they call or go around to body shops looking for a blue commercial truck with front end damage.

A ummm, friend, was in a hit and run a few year back where he did the hit and running. The police did exactly that- went looking in relevant parking lots and found the car without much trouble and tracked him down to his class. However, you've already lost valuable time- chances are that the car could have already been repaired by now.
posted by jmd82 at 5:58 PM on January 21, 2009

If you can get access to the plates database, run a list of possible plates that are visually similar to the mistakenly-recorded plate, (ie a lot of searches) and see how many come up with a vehicle that matches the description.

It would be especially useful with some other kind of cross-reference, but I don't know how you'd manage to get someone to run a bunch of plates for you.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:20 PM on January 21, 2009

8 wheel truck? It would be useful to get a better description of the truck. Was it a box truck, a semi trailer truck or tractor? Did it have a sleeper? Was there a logo on the truck? Trucks quite frequently have out-of-state plates for tax reasons, so if the plates were just run locally that doesn't mean much. Also, 8 wheels is unlikely for a truck, most are six, ten or eighteen.
posted by pjern at 6:57 PM on January 21, 2009

This seems totally obvious but I guess it's worth mentioning - you say you only have liability insurance, but if you haven't already, you should check whether your policy included hit and run coverage, or "phantom" vehicle coverage. Some states might even require such coverage, so maybe you'll luck out and it will be part of your policy already. Good luck.
posted by Happydaz at 9:13 PM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: pjern: That's all that was on the police report, and the other witness I talked to described what sounded like a box truck.

Happydaz: Sadly, I already checked, and the insurance company says no.
posted by jennyjenny at 4:26 AM on January 22, 2009

Gotta say you're in for a total headache. I was hit by an illegal immigrant with phony registration and insurance papers in Brooklyn a few years ago. My car (and laptop in the trunk) were totaled.

I got shit after weeks of effort to try to win something out of the situation, if only a criminal charge against the asshole who hit me (rear ended me at a red light, in fact, in f'ing Bed Stuy at 1AM, a place you don't want to be getting into a scene on the street). NYPD didn't care about an illegal immigrant with phony insurance papers and an unregistered car. I doubt they care about you. Start figuring out how you'll write off the loss, because eventually you will.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:57 AM on January 22, 2009

Which is to say that if you believe the NYPD you see on crime shows actually exists, welcome to New York, where the cops basically exist to fuck with law-abiding citizens and look the other way at crimes in progress. They. Don't. Care. About. Your. Car.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:03 AM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: fourcheesemac (nice name, btw): Yeah, I get that they don't care about my car. It was in Bed Stuy that this happened, actually. They're actually making abundantly clear that they don't care about my car, by being extraordinarily unhelpful and impolite on the phone.

I had previously harbored no illusions about the NYPD's helpfulness, it's just frustrating to have my assumptions confirmed so precisely.
posted by jennyjenny at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2009

No idea if these sites are legit, but a search on 'state "license plate" search' yields a bunch of for-pay sites that will run a license plate for you for around $30 and up.
posted by zippy at 9:15 PM on January 22, 2009

Response by poster: Followup: no resolution. The police and insurance companies were of very little help, and the hit and run driver got away with it. I now have an ugly but functional car. Oh, well.
posted by jennyjenny at 5:44 PM on February 28, 2009

« Older Cross-stitch supplies in dt Toronto?   |   Ethics Terminology Sought Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.