Unfortunately there are drivers out there who negligently injure someone and then compound their agony by fleeing the scene. The only way to adequately protect yourself from potentially being left with no compensation when such a situation arises is to have been carrying an adequate amount of uninsured motorist coverage prior to the hit and run incident.
We will now discuss the two potential ways a hit and run incident can play out from an auto insurance prospective.
Scenario #1: You are able to locate the at fault driver’s contact information and this driver has liability insurance. This is far and away your preferred monetary scenario towards achieving a fair recovery.
The first step in trying to make this happen is to immediately contact the police after the incident and give as much description as possible of the offending driver and vehicle. This also involves securing witnesses at the scene, and possibly video from nearby businesses.
Many people do not realize that 911 calls are recorded and can be obtained through open records request. Sometimes these records contain information that can lead to finding the offending party.
Should you be able to locate the vehicle that was driven by the at fault party, and should that vehicle have liability insurance, you can collect against the insurance for that vehicle. There may also be other insurance policies or liable parties tied to the at fault driver against whom you can collect.
Additionally, a hit and run driver can also be held liable for punitive damages, as well as compensatory ones. Therefore, your damages claim theoretically has more value against a hit and run driver than merely the cost of your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
In the event you receive the policy limits for all the liability coverages, you can still collect against any available uninsured motorist coverage you have secondarily.
Scenario #2: You are either unable to locate the offending driver and vehicle, or you do locate that person and vehicle and there is no liability coverage. This is your worst case scenario, and is problematic for two reasons.
Number one is the sole extent of your recovery is whatever uninsured motorist coverage you have at your disposal. Unfortunately some people have no uninsured motorist coverage, and therefore there is no possibility of an insurance recovery. However, even if they do have coverage, it might not be a sufficient amount to fully compensate them for their damages.
The second reason is you cannot collect punitive damages against an uninsured motorist carrier. Therefore, the threat of punitive damages that you could ask a jury for if you have found the at fault party and he is a named defendant, does not exist when the sole defendant is “John Doe,” or your uninsured motorist carrier.
Note that you can still bring a lawsuit in court if you don’t find the at fault party. In that scenario, you sue “John Doe,” and serve your uninsured motorist carrier. Your carrier then has the right to either defend the lawsuit on behalf of “John Doe” or identify their insurance company as the named defendant to the jury.