Hit and Run Car Accidents: Who Pays?
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You’re side-swiped on the highway and the other driver speeds away. You return to your car in the parking lot after doing some grocery shopping, only to find a huge dent in your bumper and no note on your windshield. A hit-and-run car accident can leave you with injuries, a damaged vehicle, or both. It can also leave you asking, “Who’s going to pay for this?” The answer may be your own insurance coverage.
Usually, the reason you purchase automobile insurance is to provide coverage in case you’re liable for injuries or damages to a third party (another driver, a pedestrian, etc.) after a car accident. But since you don’t know the identity of the other driver in a hit-and-run accident -- let alone their auto insurance information -- your own car insurance coverage may be your only source for getting compensation for any resulting injuries and vehicle damage.
Let’s look at a few of your best options for financial recovery after a hit and run car accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In many states, an insurer is required to at least offer a minimal amount of uninsured coverage to policy purchasers (and in some states drivers are required to carry a certain level of UIM coverage). You may increase any minimum coverage amount and also purchase underinsured motorist and personal injury protection coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage provides coverage in the event you are injured and/or damaged by an uninsured vehicle. It would be the primary source of protection in the event of a hit-and-run accident. Assuming that the other driver cannot be found, you should report the accident to both the police and your insurance company within a reasonable period of time. You will have to prove physical contact by another vehicle, or produce a witness. A witness other than the owner or driver of your vehicle would simplify the process.
In addition to any minimal amount of UIM coverage you’re required to carry, you may usually purchase additional coverage up to the limits of your liability coverage. For example, if your policy carries liability limits of 100,000/300,000 ($100,000 per person/$300,000 in the aggregate for more than one injured person), you could purchase 100,000/300,000 of uninsured coverage for an additional premium. This may end up being a wise investment if you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage pays for medical expenses and lost wages for anyone who has been injured in a car accident. If you are the victim of a hit-and-run, you could probably make a claim under the PIP coverage in your own policy -- but keep in mind that doing some may increase your rates in some instances. One additional caveat: PIP coverage can’t be used for damage to your vehicle, and it usually won’t cover things like “pain and suffering” and emotional distress related to the accident.
PIP coverage is typically available in many states as add-on coverage, depending on where you live and which car insurance company you choose. And in states that follow a no-fault car insurance system, PIP is part of your required auto coverage These no-fault states are D.C., Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah. (For more information on how no-fault works, check out No-Fault Car Insurance and State Laws -- The Basics.)
When all else fails, you can claim against your own policy under your collision coverage after a hit-and-run accident. This would at least cover the damages to your vehicle, but will in all likelihood cause your premiums to increase. So, your decision to go this route may depend on the extent of the damage and the cost of repairs. Learn more about Vehicle Damage After a Car Accident.