Hit-and-run accidents aren’t restricted to those late-night accidents that happen on desolate, country roads though. They also include those that involve someone hitting a parked car at the crowded mall parking lot and leaving the scene.
It’s uncertain why drivers leave the scene of an accident. Perhaps they were intoxicated or they are uninsured. (One in seven drivers on the road today drives uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council.)
What is certain is that leaving the scene of an accident is illegal in all 50 states and penalties range from traffic fines or jail time if the accident caused injuries or death.
While it can be a very frustrating and frightening experience, one way drivers can protect themselves from the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident is through uninsured motorist coverage (UMC).
If there are injuries, this mostly optional car insurance coverage pays the covered driver’s hospital bills and covers lost wages and general damages. It also picks up other expenses such as childcare, if the covered driver is recuperating from an injury. How much coverage to carry depends on what type of health insurance coverage a driver has. What is the driver’s net worth and how much risk are they willing to take? Typically, UMC limits cannot exceed that of liability coverage so that amount is simply matched.
Depending on the insurer and the policy, collision coverage will also cover a hit-and run accident but only for damage to the vehicle and not bodily injury.
Victims of a hit-and-run accident without uninsured motorist coverage will typically have to pick up the tab for any damages out of their own pocket.
Having uninsured motorist coverage or collision coverage is only half the battle though. Drivers should read their car insurance policy for guidance on how to deal with a hit-and-run accident. Failing to follow the guidelines stated in their policy could mean the difference between an insurance claim processed for payment or rejected.
Victims of a hit-and-run accident should keep the following in mind:
- Think of your safety. If the accident is in high traffic area, stay away from the car. If there are injuries, call medical personnel.
- Try and get as much information about the hit-and-run driver as possible. What type of car was it? What is the car’s plate number? What about the driver? Get a description, if possible. Look around for any witnesses.
- Take pictures, if possible
- Call law enforcement and file a report. A claim may not be possible without it.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.