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Do Insurance Companies Cover Hit and Runs?

Offered by The Scott Law Firm, PLLC

What to do if you are the victim of a hit-and-run car accident

Every 43 seconds a hit-and-run car accident takes place in the U.S.

These accidents are often shocking in their destruction and recklessness.

Getting justice after a hit-and-run is one of the more difficult challenges accident victims face. The situation is not hopeless, however. An experienced car accident attorney in your state will be able to help you make sense of what happened. They can investigate the accident and help determine who is at fault, look for evidence to identify the missing driver, identify potential sources of insurance coverage, and look for other sources of compensation when no insurance exists.

In the U.S., each state has its own hit and run rules and penalties. If you were injured in a hit and run accident, it is a good idea to take advantage of a free case evaluation with a local personal injury lawyer. They can help you understand how the law in your state applies to your case and the legal options available to you.

In the meantime, here is some general information about hit and run accidents.

What is a hit and run?

A hit and run occurs when at least one vehicle is involved in an accident and the driver leaves the scene without stopping to help, waiting for police, or reporting the accident. The crash may involve a pedestrian, two or more vehicles, or a single vehicle hitting a stationary object.

More than 700,000 hit and run accidents happen every year in the U.S., according to AAA research. About 2,000 of these crashes are fatal.

Is it illegal to hit someone and drive-off?

Yes. Some states have exceptions for people who need to leave the scene of an accident to get emergency help or receive emergency medical treatment, but otherwise, you must stay at the scene whenever someone else is injured.

The penalties for a hit and run vary widely by state. In some states it’s a misdemeanor and in others it may be a felony. Usually, the incident rises to the level of a felony if the driver causes injury to another person during the accident.

Why do people flee the scene of an accident?

People flee from an accident for a variety of reasons, but the most common is to avoid responsibility for causing the collision and additional penalties, including criminal fines and/or jail time. Many hit-and-run drivers are already breaking the law at the time of the crash. In addition to the crash, they may also be fleeing penalties related to:

  • Drunk driving
  • Buzzed or impaired driving due to alcohol
  • Driving while high or intoxicated on drugs
  • Driving with a suspended license or no license
  • Warrant(s) for their arrest

Others run because they don’t want their private business publicized, like in the case of a married man getting into an accident with his girlfriend in the car.

Are most hit and runs solved?

It’s estimated that about half of all hit-and-run drivers are identified in the U.S., but the rate varies greatly from state to state. Some states only manage to identify 10 percent of drivers who are involved in hit and run accidents while others have a near 100 percent identification rate.

More and more, however, reckless drivers who flee crashes are being recorded on dash cams and other surveillance cameras that provide evidence of the wreck.

Where do hit and runs happen?

According to some research, this type of accident is most likely to occur in the dark, where the lighting is poor and there may be fewer eyewitnesses available to report the crash. Areas with high levels of pedestrian traffic are also hit and run hotspots, due to motorists not keeping a proper lookout, not following the speed limit, not stopping for traffic signals, and/or generally not seeing pedestrian traffic on the roadway.

Who is most likely to be the reckless driver in a hit and run?

A profile of the average hit-and-run driver found that they are frequently caused by young males with a prior history of driving under the influence (DUI) or license suspension.

Do insurance policies cover hit and runs?

Sometimes. It depends on the type of insurance, the different coverage(s) that are included on the policy, and the policy language itself.

Some types of insurances that could pay out in the case of a hit and run include:

  • Collision coverage — You may be able to get money for car repairs using the collision coverage available on your own auto policy.
  • Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist insurance (UIM) — This type of coverage is included on some motor vehicle insurance policies and may apply in the event of a hit and run accident if the driver who hit you doesn’t have enough insurance (or none at all) to cover your damages.
  • Liability – If the at-fault driver is found and they have liability coverage of some kind, or if another party is liable for the accident and they have liability insurance that applies, their insurance might be available to pay for all or a portion of your damages.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance — PIP isn’t available in all states. However, in the State of Washington your insurer must offer you PIP coverage whenever you purchase a motor vehicle insurance policy. PIP covers medical bills for both you and your passengers regardless of fault for the accident. PIP policies issued in the State of Washington also offer limited amounts of wage loss benefits and coverage for funeral expenses in some cases. In other cases, PIP benefits can also be used to pay for medical benefits for injured pedestrians and cyclists who are involved in the accident.

Just because you file a claim with an insurance company does not mean the insurance company will approve it. You will most likely have to provide documentation supporting your claim, at a minimum, and negotiate with one or more adjusters who are working for the insurance company and who do not have your best interests at heart. In the event of serious injury, you may also need to hire an attorney (which is often the only way to leverage filing a lawsuit against those responsible for causing your injuries) if the insurance company refuses to make you a fair settlement offer. As a general rule of thumb, the more serious the injuries caused by the accident, the greater the need to consult with (and potentially hire) a qualified personal injury attorney.

What do I do if I am the victim of a hit and run crash?

If you were hit by a driver who fled the scene, it is important that you act as quickly as possible after the crash. Here are some steps you can take:

Call 911. Call the police and report the accident as well as any identifying information you have about the vehicle or driver that hit you.

Take a video. Use your phone to take video and photos of the accident scene (provided it’s safe to do so). Make sure to capture images of the crash from various angles as well as your injuries and property damage.

See a doctor. If you were injured, seek medical attention immediately after the accident. If there is an emergency medical technician at the scene, it’s probably a good idea to let them examine you. Afterward, consider seeing a doctor as soon as possible. Amid the accident’s chaos, even the most experienced EMT could miss something a doctor with more time and available equipment might detect. By getting checked out by medical professionals you are creating evidence of your injuries that an insurance company will find difficult to ignore. Don’t wait too long to get medical help. The more time in between the accident and your medical appointment, the more room an adjuster has to claim that your injuries are not related to the accident.

Find witnesses. If there are people around who saw the crash or saw the other driver flee the scene, write down their names and contact information (phone, address, email, driver’s license).

Call a lawyer. Hit and run accidents can be complicated and contentious, especially when there are serious injuries involved. You may feel that no one wants to take responsibility for the pain and suffering inflicted on you. An experienced car accident lawyer can help fight back. They can leverage a lawsuit to get the insurance companies to take your claim seriously and live up to the promises they make in their commercials and advertisements.

A lawyer can help you understand how the law applies to your case, determine who is legally responsible for causing the accident, help determine the proper value of your claim, collect evidence, identify the different types of insurance coverage available, negotiate with the insurance companies, and most importantly file a lawsuit on your behalf if it becomes necessary. Without a lawyer at your side, the insurance companies have almost no incentive to take you seriously or resolve your claim fairly.

What do I do if my husband, wife, son, or daughter was seriously hurt or killed in a hit and run accident?

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney and, at the very minimum, obtain a consultation as soon as possible so you are aware of your legal rights moving forward.

Get justice. Find a lawyer near you.

If you or a loved one was the victim of a hit and run accident, it’s important that you seek advice from an experienced personal injury attorney who can review your claim and help protect your legal rights. Get answers from someone who understands the process. Contact a lawyer in your state to learn more about the value of your claim.

The Scott Law Firm, PLLC is a personal injury firm in Vancouver, WA.

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