As is to be expected, the non-lawyer segment of the population has varying degrees of knowledge about many different legal issues. The level of knowledge or insight ranges from, “I’ve never even heard of that” up to, and including, “I’ve been through that very thing!” However, there seems to be a few legal matters that even young people are at least familiar with perhaps the most common knowledge being about the hit and run car accident. Society is aware of the hit and run, in part, because we see it in the movies, read about it online, and some of us even go through it. Beyond that, the hit and run accident is a fairly easy concept because the name of the accident even explains exactly what occurred!
That said, while many people are familiar with the concept of the hit and run, the rights of a victim of a hit and run are frequently misunderstood. I hope this article sheds light on the realities of the hit and run as I work to dispel the top 5 myths about hit and run accident claims.
MYTH 1 – I was involved in a hit and run so I’m out of luck!
FALSE – If you are injured in a hit and run, you likely have recourse! In many states, car insurance policies have mandatory Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage and in other states it can be purchased as add on coverage. UM coverage is in place in case you are injured by someone who does not carry any insurance. And, somewhat obviously, a hit and run driver is considered “uninsured” since we don’t know what (if any) insurance they carry. This scenario may play out differently depending on your particular state and insurance company but you should always have an experienced car accident attorney review your options with you following a hit and run.
MYTH 2 – Another car swerved at me causing me to go off the road and become injured. Since they didn’t hit me, there is nothing I can do.
FALSE – many states follow the “no-contact” rule which means that a hit and run driver need not necessarily make contact with your car in order for you to pursue a claim.
MYTH 3 – I didn’t get any information about the hit and run driver or his car so there is nothing I can do.
FALSE – in many hit and run situations, it may be virtually impossible to obtain information about the offending driver. When that is the situation, you can likely make a UM claim against your own policy. However, some states and some insurance policies require that you make your best effort at obtaining as much information as possible before your claim will be honored. Therefore, it is always a good practice to get as much detail and information as possible.
MYTH 4 – The other driver fled the scene – it must be her fault.
FALSE – although this is a logical assumption, it isn’t always the case. I have seen countless cases in which one driver involved in a crash flees the scene due to fear, an outstanding warrant, or a lack of insurance. Simply because they flee, doesn’t mean they were the cause of a car accident.
MYTH 5 – A jury will surely side with me…the other driver ran!
FALSE – in some cases, the fleeing driver is caught following a car accident and, when they are, the other involved party often believes this myth. However, depending on jurisdiction, a jury might not ever even hear that the other driver fled. A common defense “trick” is to simply admit it was their client’s fault and, by virtue of this admission, the fact the driver fled may be inadmissible (depending on jurisdiction).
The list of myths and misconceptions about hit and run accidents could go on for pages but the myths above are the ones I most commonly encounter and I hope my brief explanations serve as a starting point should you or a loved one be involved in a hit and run car accident. An experienced Roseville MN personal injury lawyer will be able to discuss these points and many more.
Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at Johnston | Martineau, PLLP for their added insight into hit and run accident claims.