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Hit and Runs: What’s Covered by Insurance?

One of the most basic rules of auto insurance is that the person at fault for a car crash is the one who pays for damages. But what happens if that person fled the scene?

In a hit-and-run accident, the costs can end up being your responsibility if you can’t track down the driver at fault.

What’s more, being involved in a hit-and-run is more common that you might think. In 2020, hit-and-run accidents caused 7% of U.S. traffic fatalities (2,488) and 17% of injuries (236,433), and they accounted for 17% of instances of property damage (529,836), according to traffic statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So what’s the best course of action?

Knowing what to do if you get into a hit-and-run can help you avoid a worst-case scenario. And having the right coverage can keep you from having to face steep repair bills and rate increases.

What to do after a hit-and-run

Getting into a crash is a scary thing on its own. But when the car that hits you drives off, it can make an already stressful situation even more alarming.

Although emotions may be running high, remain as calm as possible and follow these important steps:

  1. Never follow the fleeing driver. It may be unsafe, and you could miss out on getting crucial witness information.
  2. Call 911 and get medical help if there are any injuries.
  3. Write down all available information about the other driver, including vehicle make and model, license plate number, direction in which the driver was headed and a description of the person’s appearance.
  4. Find any witnesses at the scene and collect their observations and information so the police and your insurance company can contact them.
  5. Take pictures of your vehicle from multiple angles, along with photos of street signs and the surrounding area.
  6. Ask surrounding businesses and homes if they have cameras that may have captured footage of the accident.
  7. File a police report as soon as possible. You must report a hit-and-run accident if you want police assistance in finding fault.
  8. Contact your insurer to begin the claims process.
  9. Consider hiring an attorney.

Will I be covered if someone hits me?

Getting into an accident with a driver who flees the scene is much like being in an accident with an uninsured driver, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That means some insured drivers are not covered.

But if you have the right coverage, your auto insurance policy will protect you. You may be covered if you have one or more of the following:

  • Collision Coverage: Regardless of who’s at fault, your collision coverage will help pay for damages to your vehicle.

  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage: UM can help ensure you have coverage against an at-fault, uninsured motorist if you don’t have a collision policy, or it can supplement your collision coverage. There are two types of UM coverage that may be offered together or separately, depending on where you live:

    • UM Bodily Injury Coverage: If another driver is at fault, this coverage helps pay the medical expenses for you and any injured passengers, or if you were injured as a pedestrian. It may also cover lost wages. You may not need UM Bodily Injury coverage if you have a collision policy, although some states require it.

    • UM Property Damage coverage: This may cover all or part of the damages to your vehicle if you are hit by an uninsured driver, This coverage is not available in all states, though, and some states do not allow you to use it for hit-and-run accidents.

  • Medical Payments coverage: Also known as MedPay, this optional coverage can help pay medical bills for you and your passengers if there are injuries, regardless of who is at fault. It may also cover you if you are a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle and injured. Maine and New Hampshire require MedPay, although it is not available in all states.

  • Personal Injury Protection: PIP offers more extensive coverage than MedPay. Along with covering medical bills, PIP may also help cover lost wages and childcare expenses while you recover, plus funeral expenses if needed. Some states require PIP; others do not offer it.

Will liability insurance protect me?

If you are carrying only a liability policy, you will not be covered if you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Liability coverage will help pay for another person’s damages or medical bills in an accident in which you are at fault. But it will not cover your own expenses in either case.

Other forms of protection

Crime victim compensation programs: Although this is not a type of insurance coverage, some states offer crime victim compensation programs that may help you offset medical expenses.

Find the other driver: If you are able to get the other driver’s license plate number, police may be able to help you track down the driver so you can file a claim.

What happens to my insurance rates after a hit-and-run accident?

If you have to file a claim because of a hit and run, several factors will dictate whether your premium will go up.

Chances are your insurance rates won’t increase, as long as you’re filing just one claim for an accident in which you were not at fault. Make sure your insurer notes “not at fault” in the claim.

But if this is the latest of multiple claims you’ve filed within a three- to five-year period, you could see a rate increase — even if you weren’t at fault.

“Miss-and-run” accidents

Let’s say another car swerved into your lane and get into a crash with a different vehicle, and then drove off. The car never actually made physical contact with your vehicle, so technically it wasn’t a “hit and run.” But if you swerved to avoid the vehicle, only to end up getting into a crash with another car, the end result is the same: There’s no at-fault driver who can pay for damages and injuries, and you’re left footing the bill — and possibly for more than one car.

This scenario is known as a “miss and run,” or a “phantom” car crash. And although these can be difficult to prove, doing so is possible if you can gather enough evidence. Tire marks, witness statements, and camera footage can help you track down the driver and file a claim to pay for damages and injuries

What if you caused a hit and run?

Fleeing the scene of an accident can result in criminal misdemeanor or felony charges, significant fines, jail time, and the loss or suspension of your driver’s license. You could also face dramatic auto insurance rate increases, or the cancellation of your policy.

If you have a hit-and-run conviction on your insurance record, your premium could nearly double, or even triple, depending on what state you live in.

Get your policy ready now

Do you have enough insurance to protect yourself from a hit-and-run accident? Here’s what to consider now:

• Review your policy to make sure you have the coverage you need. Consider purchasing collision coverage, uninsured motorist protection, medical payments coverage or personal injury protection, or a combination of two or more of these coverage types.

• Remember: If you are carrying only liability coverage, you would not be protected from a hit-and-run driver.

• When determining the type and amount of coverage you need, consider your risk tolerance and how much you are willing to pay out of pocket.

• If your soon-to-expire policy includes a rate increase, start shopping around to compare quotes from different companies.