Uninsured Motorist Coverage Protects Against Hit-and-Run Accidents.
The other day, I spoke with a potential new client who was upset and worried. She had been hit by a semi-truck on the freeway. Instead of stopping to check on this client and to exchange insurance information, the truck continued driving, fleeing the scene. So, this potential client wanted to know her options with this hit-and-run car accident.
I told her not to worry, and asked if she carried uninsured motorist coverage on her auto policy. She asked why, and I explained to her that if
(1) She was involved in a hit-and-run auto accident, and
(2) She carries uninsured motorist coverage, then
(3) She is protected as long as certain factors and steps have been satisfied. A hit-and-run accident is tantamount to having been involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist.
She asked about the factors and steps that need to be satisfied, and I relayed the following information:
1. There has to be physical contact between the vehicles.
First and foremost, there must be actual physical contact between the vehicles involved in the accident. In this case, there had to be contact between her vehicle and the semi-truck.
Contact is a key element because of the “phantom vehicle” scenario. Under this scenario, any motorist involved in a single car accident can claim that a phantom vehicle cut him or her off on the road, forcing the motorist to swerve to the side and crash into another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a structure.
Under the “phantom vehicle” scenario, there would be no way to prove such a vehicle actually existed and caused the accident. Having actual physical contact does away with the “phantom vehicle” scenario!
The (potential) client responded that there was physical contact because the semi-truck had side-swiped her before leaving the scene.
2. She was required to file a hit-and-run report with law enforcement.
A victim of a hit-and-run accident must make an accident report with law enforcement.
If the car accident occurs on the freeway, then an accident report should be filed with the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
If the car accident occurs in Santa Clarita (Valencia, Newhall, Saugus, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, or Val Verde), then an accident report needs to be filed with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
If the vehicle accident occurs in the San Fernando Valley, then an accident report needs to be filed with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
The (potential) client informed me that she lives in Valencia, but the accident occurred on the 5 Freeway. Accordingly, she had filed a hit-and-run accident report with the CHP.
3. She was required to report the accident to her insurance company as soon as possible.
The other requirement was for her to have reported the hit-and-run accident to her insurance company as soon as possible.
Some auto policies require that a hit-and-run accident victim report the accident to his or her insurance company within 24 or 48 hours of the auto accident.
Note: You should check your policy or call your insurance agent to check, and even if you are not sure whether you will pursue a claim under your auto policy, you should report a hit-and-run accident in case you decide to move forward with an uninsured motorist claim in the future.
Here, the potential client had reported the accident while at the accident scene. So, she could proceed with an uninsured motorist claim.
Her next question was “what would be covered” under her Uninsured Motorist claim?
Uninsured motorist coverage will help this injured client pay for medical treatment because her insurance company will now step into the shoes of the insurance company that (would have) insured the driver of the hit-and-run vehicle.
The (potential) client was suffering from neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and low back pain. She will need to be evaluated by a health care professional to determine the full extent of her injuries. Often times, the neck pain, headaches and shoulder pain are generally related to a whiplash injury. With proper treatment, such as chiropractic treatment, whiplash is treatable.
The low back pain may indicate that she sprained or strained low back muscles. As with whiplash, proper treatment will also help to alleviate the pain.
As I informed her, we could set up a treatment plan with a health care provider that we trust and monitor her treatment to make sure that she receives the proper care for her injuries.
This comes down to one of two scenarios: (1) collision coverage on her auto policy, or (2) property damage on her uninsured motorist coverage.
This (potential) client carried collision coverage on her auto policy. This coverage will allow her to have her car repaired through her own insurance. However, she will be responsible for her deductible. Under some policies, if the hit-and-run vehicle (and its driver) is identified and the person does not carry insurance, then the deductible may be waived.
Conversely, if this (potential) client had not carried collision coverage, then she needed to have property damage coverage in her uninsured motorist coverage in order for her insurance company to pay for the repairs. However, under most policies, her property damage would be limited to $3,500.
Note: We encourage every client to use an insurance agent to purchase an auto policy because an agent will explain all available coverages and, in case of an accident, the agent can answer questions related to coverages and deductible. Never purchase auto insurance online!
Our fees and costs
The (potential) client’s final questions were about our fees and costs.
We work on a contingency basis, which means there will be no out of pocket fees or costs to her. We get paid from a settlement or (in this case) an arbitration award. If there is no settlement or award, she wouldn’t have to pay us a dime!
Needless to say, we have a new client!
This article is brought to you by Mason Rashtian of The Mason Law Firm, a full-service personal injury attorney and accident lawyer. We represent clients all throughout California and Los Angeles County, including the Santa Clarita Valley, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, Canyon Country, Newhall, and the entire San Fernando Valley.
We can be reached at (661) 270-5677.
This article is meant for informational purposes only.