A hit and run can be a terrifying and frustrating event. Not only did someone hit your car, but they did not take responsibility for it. If you are a hit-and-run victim, you might have several questions about your options, particularly if you are injured. Here is what you need to know.

It’s Essential to Find the Driver

Without knowing who the driver is, you cannot file a claim against them. Hit and run drivers are often caught, usually, through security footage, dashcam footage, eyewitnesses, or by telling the police a description of the car, the driver, or license plate information if you have it. 

While you have options if you cannot find the driver, they are limited.

Insurance May Cover it

If you can track the driver down, one thing you can do is file a claim through the insurance company to receive compensation for repairs, medical bills, and other expenses. However, depending on what state you live in, this law can differ.

Car left in road after a hit and run

When Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?

If the driver has insurance, you can file a claim and receive the compensation you deserve. However, a personal injury lawsuit may be required if the driver does not have insurance. As a victim, you are entitled to compensation.

In addition, there may be other circumstances when you might need to file a personal injury claim. For example, the insurance company refuses to pay or only pays partially.

Accident lawyers help communicate to insurance companies or the perpetrator on your behalf. They can negotiate a deal, organize your medical records and other evidence, and often resolve claims without you having to attend court. This fact is comforting, as a hit and run can be a stressful time for you and your family.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage if you Cannot Find the Driver?

A lawyer can still help, providing you with an investigator who may help you find the culprit. Depending on the state you live in, you may be able to file a first-party claim against your own insurance company which is called an uninsured motorist claim.  This claim can help pay for your medical bills and property damage. However, you have to specifically pay for and add uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to your automobile insurance policy.

What is Under-Insured (UIM) or Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) and should you have it?

You want insurance that has underinsured (UIM) or uninsured motorist coverage (UM). If an at-fault driver has a minimum insurance policy (In California the minimum policy is $15,000 per individual per occurrence) you can only receive the maximum of $15,000. If you are a victim of a hit and run and you are injured or your property is damaged, you need UM/UIM coverage to have a personal injury or property damage claim.

There are some circumstances where you and your lawyer can “open” the insurance policy (i.e. get more than the available insurance policy limits) if there is an offer made to settle within the insurance policy limits which is rejected by the insurance company. However, insurance coverage and insurance bad faith law is a separate and complex legal topic not covered within this blog post. 

You should understand that often the value of your claim is also determined not just by the nature and extent of your injuries but also by the availability of insurance to cover the claim. Even if your case is potentially worth more than the available insurance, the insurance policy limits will ultimately determine your recovery in most, but not all, personal injury cases.  This coverage is grossly inadequate and although plaintiffs' lawyers are trying to increase these limits, this is the current required minimum insurance policy in California.  In a serious hit-and-run accident, the cost of medical treatment and your pain and suffering could be worth a significant amount of money. Therefore, if you have UM/UIM coverage, your own insurance company can pay for your medical bills and/or general damages such as pain and suffering. Your lawyer can and should handle the UIM claim for you. Your UM/UIM policy serves as a safety cushion. 

However, if your own insurance company doesn’t want to pay the UM/UIM demand, you will be forced into binding arbitration. One of the benefits of filing a UM/UIM case is that your own insurance carrier has an affirmative obligation to handle your claim in good faith. If your insurance carrier refuses to settle your UM/UIM claim and you prevail at arbitration, you can then sue your insurance carrier in civil court for insurance bad faith and punitive damages and demand a jury trial. This is why many UM/UIM claims get resolved either before or during arbitration proceedings. 

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If you have been the victim of a hit-and-run collision, talk to us for a free, no-obligation consultation. We're ready to help.  

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