I was involved in a hit-and-run accident, do I still have a personal injury case?

No one expects to be injured in a car accident or for the other driver to flee the accident scene for that matter. Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents are quite common. If you have been injured in a hit-and-run accident, it is crucial to understand your rights.

Drivers Who Hit and Run Are Breaking the Law

In all states, a motorist is required to stop and remain at the scene of an accident that results in personal injury or property damage. The motorist is also required to exchange identification and insurance information, and provide assistance if possible. Regardless of whether or not a driver is at fault, it unlawful to flee a car accident scene.  

Why would a driver flee an accident scene? Good question. Typically, hit-and-run drivers are either unlicensed, have a suspended license, or are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, and fear being arrested. Nonetheless, there is no legally justifiable reason for fleeing the scene of a car accident. 

If you are involved in an accident with a hit-and-run driver, you should immediately call the police. The sooner you do so the more likely the police are to apprehend the suspect. Given the prevalence of surveillance cameras on streets and highways and the fact that most people have smartphones today, it is also possible that a video clip of the fleeing driver’s car or a screenshot of the license plate will lead to an arrest. 

If the hit-and-run driver is located, it may be possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against him or her. In a successful hit-and-run-accident claim you may be awarded damages to cover lost wages, medical expenses and other losses. 

What happens if a hit-and-run driver is not caught?

It is important to remember that car accidents are governed by state insurance law. In most jurisdictions, insurance companies are required to offer policyholders coverage for accidents involving uninsured and/or underinsured motorists. 

UM/UIM insurance coverage offers a degree of protection to drivers and passengers who are injured in an accident caused by (1) an uninsured driver or (2) a driver whose coverage isn’t sufficient to compensate injured parties. In most states, a hit-and-run driver falls under the definition of an “uninsured motorist.”

In a UM claim, you file a claim with your own insurance company up to the UM plan limits.. In this way, your insurer steps in to provide coverage since a claim cannot be filed against an unidentified hit-and-run driver.

Uninsured motorist coverage typically has two components: [1] bodily injury coverage for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering and [2] property damage coverage for vehicle repairs. There is typically a deductible for property damage. In a hit-and-run accident, time is of the essence because insurers typically impose strict deadlines on UM claims. 

Do I need an attorney for my hit-and-run-accident claim?

If you have been injured in a hit-and-run-accident, you may be frightened, and concerned about obtaining the compensation you deserve. If you have UM coverage, be forewarned that insurance companies are notorious for denying such claims. First, as previously mentioned, you must file your UM claim within the required time period under your policy, otherwise you will be barred from recovering any money. 

In addition, to have a valid claim you must be able to prove that the hit-and-run driver was at fault for the accident, and that the accident was the cause of your injuries. This is why you must call the police immediately after a hit-and-run accident. The police report will go a long way in supporting your claim in a UM accident.

Ultimately, the best decision you can make after a hit-and-run accident is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney — one who is well-versed in the rules regarding uninsured motorists in your state and who has a proven history of pursuing successful hit-and-run accident claims.

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