What is a hit-and-run crash? It seems self-explanatory; it’s technically right there in the name. However, there are some details you might want to know more about, especially if you are a victim.
More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads, according to the latest research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, accounting for thousands of deaths each year.
So, who is responsible for the damages when you can’t prove fault and the other person is long gone? Can your insurance help? Read on for answers.
What Is Considered a Hit-and-Run?
Simply defined, a hit-and-run is any traffic collision in which a driver flees the scene, leaving behind property damage, bodily injury or even death. No information is exchanged between the two drivers and there is no opportunity to identify who caused the accident. It can happen anywhere a car can be driven, whether a well-traveled road or a parking lot.
Hit-and-run violations are criminal offenses. There are laws in every state that make fleeing the site of a crash illegal to varying degrees (however, most states do allow for a driver to temporarily leave the scene to get emergency help.) If caught and found guilty, and depending on the severity of the crash, drivers can potentially face loss or suspension of their license, large fines or jail time.
Hit-and-Run Insurance Claims and Coverage
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run crash and left stranded with vehicle damage or injuries, call the police immediately, file a report and notify your insurance company. It’s also smart to check if there were any witnesses that can contribute to your case.
Hit-and-run coverage varies by state and insurance carrier.
“If police ultimately can identify the culprit and they carry liability insurance, their insurance company could help pay for the damages/injuries. However, most are never identified,” said Jodi DeSantis, managing director of insurance sales for AAA Northeast. “Therefore, it is the coverages that you carry on your policy that will determine whether or not protection is available. Collision coverage would help to pay for the cost to repair your car, minus any deductible.”
Uninsured motorist and no-fault coverages may provide compensation for a hit-and-run, but also depends on state and carrier. In some cases, the driver may need to be identified for uninsured motorist coverage to kick in. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your specific coverages; a licensed insurance agent can help you interpret your contract.
Generally, hit-and-run accidents will not cause insurance rates to go up for the victim.
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Say you’re in a parking garage and accidentally ding the car next to you with your door. If you drive away and pretend like it never happened, would that be considered a hit-and-run?
“Yes,” said DeSantis. “If the party that caused the damage does not stop, leaves the scene and does not identify themselves in any way, such as leaving a note.”
While you might get away with such a minor incident, staying at the scene or leaving a note is a polite courtesy to extend to the owner of the other vehicle.
How to Handle a Crash
If you are involved in a crash, resist your flight response and never leave the scene. Remember that while hitting another car or a pedestrian is scary, especially when there are injuries involved, it is an accident. You may not even be at fault. Fleeing is a crime. Instead, follow these steps, according to AAA.
- Call 911.
- Make sure you are visible to approaching drivers using hazard lights, flares or reflectors as needed. Find a safe place to stay until help arrives.
- File a report with the police. If police do not come to the scene, you can file a report via your local police department or insurance agency.
Have you ever been the victim of a hit-and-run crash? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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