Here’s a shocker … people don’t always take responsibility for the things they do that hurt other people. A few years ago I accidentally ran a red light and caused a collision. I was pretty sure the other guy was injured. I called my insurance company and told them what happened. The lady taking the claim report asked me if it was my fault and I said “Yes”.
I’ll never forget her next words: “You’re the first one all week.”
In other words, the first one who reported the collision and admitted liability.
One way to avoid admitting liability is to say it wasn’t your fault. Another, is to leave the scene of the accident.
Penalties for Hit and Run
Oklahoma has some significant penalties to discourage people from leaving the scene of an accident, especially one in which someone is injured or killed. Intentionally leaving an injury/death scene is a felony and requires revocation of the offender’s driver’s license. 47 O.S. §10-102. Leaving the scene of a collision which results in property damage is a misdemeanor; the person owning the damaged property is entitled to receive three times the value of the loss. 47 O.@.§10-103.
Despite the penalties, people still leave the scene. Who knows why? Maybe they have a warrant out, or drugs in the car. Maybe they’re scared of police. Maybe they don’t have insurance and are afraid of the consequences. Maybe they’ve been drinking. Or maybe, as in “Analyze This”, they have a body in the trunk.
Once we had a case where a guy had been drinking and rear-ended out client on the highway. He left the scene after leaving his name, number, and address, and hurried home to drink some more as fast as he could to give himself a really shabby alibi that he hadn’t been drinking and driving — he was so upset at having a wreck that he had to hurry home and pour a couple stiff ones.
Sometimes hit and run drivers get found; sometimes they don’t. If they are found, sometimes they have liability insurance, and sometimes they don’t. My guess is that drivers who leave the scene are less likely to have insurance than those who stay for the police investigation. Let’s call that an “educated guess”.
Collision coverage for property damage from hit and run
Collision coverage covers damage to your vehicle no matter who was at fault in a wreck. If the other person is identified, and has liability coverage, you usually want your damage paid by their insurance company because there’s no deductible. But, one of the things collision coverage is useful for is when your car is damaged or destroyed by a hit and run driver. Your insurance company is obliged to cover that loss, less your deductible, including if the damage is caused by a hit and run driver. By state law, they cannot target you for a rate increase for making a claim in which you were not at fault, so there’s no penalty for using your own insurance policy. After all, that’s you paid your premiums for, right?
Many people stop carrying “full coverage”, which includes comprehensive and collision coverage, when they don’t have a loan on their vehicle and therefore aren’t required to in order to provide security to their lender. However, if your car is worth more than a few thousand dollars, you may want to keep your collision coverage so that if your car is hit by an uninsured or hit and run driver, you’ll be able to afford repairs or get a replacement vehicle if yours is totaled.
The related coverage, “comprehensive” coverage, covers you for theft of your vehicle, theft of property from your vehicle, acts of vandalism like slashing your tires or “keying” your paint, or acts of nature like hail or flood damage.
Coverage for your injuries caused by a hit and run driver
Uninsured motorist coverage is your personal injury coverage if you are hurt by a hit and run driver. By state statute and insurance policy language, UM coverage defines hit and run as being an injury caused by an uninsured driver. I had a call today and am meeting a new client tomorrow who was broad-sided by a hit and run driver. Perhaps that driver will be found; a couple of witnesses stayed at the scene and gave the police some information; and there’s always the possibility of a surveillance camera catching the perpetrator.
But I know that I’m going to be able to assist this client because she has uninsured motorist coverage. Even better, she has more than just minimum limits, so if her injuries are more serious than a $25,000.00 claim, there just might be adequate coverage to get her some reasonable compensation.
Vehicle-pedestrian injuries are sometimes even worse. When you’re walking across the street, or on the sidewalk, you don’t have the protection of the metal and safety systems of your vehicle to protect you. In a contest between the car and the person, usually the person comes out worse. If that driver leaves the scene, your uninsured motorist coverage will cover you even though you weren’t in your car, because UM coverage goes with the person, not the vehicle.
And, it covers your family too. UM coverage provides protection for the named insurance and any relative living in the household (with a few exceptions that are kind of technical). So, if your child is in the school crosswalk and a driver comes through and hits her, your UM coverage will provide some personal injury compensation for her injuries.
By state law, insurance companies are required to offer you UM coverage up to the amounts of the liability coverage you select. You have three choices: 1) take the coverage; 2) take the coverage but at the lower limits ($25,000.00 per person, $50,000.00 per accident); or 3) reject the coverage.
I don’t care WHAT your insurance agent tells you about why you don’t need UM coverage. If they tell you that, get another agent because this one doesn’t know what the heck they are talking about and does not have your interests at heart.
No, I am not an insurance salesman. I am a personal injury trial lawyer. My job is to get you as much compensation for your injuries as I can within our system of justice and insurance law. If you come to me and got hit by a driver who left the scene, and you don’t have collision coverage for your vehicle or uninsured motorist coverage for your injuries, I’m probably going to have to tell you “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”
And honestly, I hate saying that to people who were injured by others.
If you have a question or need some help, shoot me an email at email@example.com, or call our firm, Foshee & Yaffe at 405 632-6668 and ask for Greg.