We have all heard of hit and run accidents. Sometimes, a car crashes into a parked car and leaves without any witnesses or leaving any information. This leaves the owner of the damaged car in a position to have the damages repaired by his or her own insurance company assuming they have insurance. If there is no insurance and no identifiable responsible party you are out of luck and will have to pay for the damage on your own.
More serious are the situations in which a pedestrian or a bicyclist are struck and injured and/or killed by a motor vehicle that leaves the scene without there being any witnesses or identity as to the responsible party. Over the years we have represented many people injured by hit-and-run drivers and were able to recover damages even though we did not know the hit-and-run driver’s identity.
In those cases, either the injured victim or the victim’s family had uninsured motorist coverage. Many people think that uninsured motorist coverage only applies in a two or more car accident. However, it applies in situations of hit-and-run. In those cases, the policy provides and the law supports the application of uninsured motorist coverage when no one knows who caused the injuries. In those situations, we were able to recover damages for our client from their own automobile insurance company pursuant to their underinsured motorist coverage.
However, just because it is your own insurance company does not mean it is easy or that the insurance company simply gives you a “blank check”. In situations of hit-and-run it often times is even more difficult to collect damages which means it is even more important to retain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon after the accident as possible. Of course, please make sure all medical needs are met and that you, a spouse or a family member are treated for the injuries and are on the road to recovery but as soon as you can consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the case.
These cases are generally taken on a contingency fee basis so that there is usually no cost to talk to the attorney. The benefit of retaining the services of an attorney in a hit-and-run case as soon as possible is that it is imperative that all sources of insurance as well as all of the facts pertaining to the accident are discovered, preserved and protected as soon as possible. Sometimes, the injured victim does not remember the accident and in some there are no witnesses. This means that you have to convince the insurance company, in order to collect under underinsured motorist coverage, that a hit-and-run driver was the cause of the accident. Without witnesses or firsthand knowledge that can often times be difficult. It is important that all of the investigation done by the police or sheriff’s department are gathered and that investigators are interviewed. It is important to have photographs of the scene because as time goes by intersections and roadways change. Sometimes, local businesses or homeowners may have surveillance cameras that could have evidence to help support your claim that the hit-and-run driver caused the accident. The tapes on the surveillance cameras are not kept forever and often times are discarded or covered over making it impossible to view in the future. In some situations, there may be witnesses and even though they give statements to the investigating police officer those statements are often times inadmissible in court unless you have the witness available for testimony. It is imperative that witnesses are immediately contacted and remain in contact with your lawyers so that in the event their testimony is needed they are available. Witnesses tend to move and often times do not leave forwarding addresses especially if they are unaware of there being a legal claim.
Just because you, a family member, friend or relative are injured by a hit-and-run driver does not mean you will recover from your own insurance company. You have to prove that the hit-and-run driver caused the injuries and that it was not the injured victim who caused his or her own injuries. Without witnesses or evidence the insurance company will take a position that you have not proven you are entitled to recover damages under their insurance policy.
It is also important to have an attorney investigate all sources of insurance coverage as sometimes these cases leave the victim and victim’s family with thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars of medical expenses. Sometimes, they cannot work so there are lost wages. All of this can be recovered as long as you prove both responsibility and entitlement to the damages. Of course, without adequate insurance coverage there may be insufficient funds to pay for all of the damages making it even more important to discover all insurance policies.
In short, injuries by a hit-and-run victim whether in a vehicle to vehicle accident to a vehicle to pedestrian or bicyclist accident does not mean you cannot recover damages but it also does not mean the insurance company will hand you over their policy limits. It takes hard work and investigation and preparation of your claim to recover the damages that you are entitled.
I have been representing injured victims of accidents of all kinds including hit-and-run accidents with pedestrians and bicyclists. We offer a free, no cost, no obligation consultation to discuss your rights and how we can help you and/or your family through these difficult situations. We are well aware that many times in cases of serious injury there is little time or energy to contact an attorney. In those situations, have someone you trust contact us so that we can begin work on your case to protect your rights. Hopefully, neither you nor your family will ever have to experience the pain and agony of a hit-and-run accident. However, if you do we are here to help.