Hit-and-Run Accidents

In the criminal context, the phrase “hit-and-run” technically refers to a driver who does not stop to exchange information and wait as required by law at the scene of an accident. Naturally, the precise elements of the hit-and-run statute must be proven in a criminal case. In the typical insurance case, however, the phrase has a slightly different meaning. It is not necessary to prove that the unknown hit-and-run driver committed any particular criminal act. It may not be necessary to prove physical contact with the hit-and-run vehicle. Rather, it is necessary to prove that the hit-and-run vehicle caused the insured’s injury, and that the identity of the driver could not be determined by the insured. As always, the terms of coverage are determined, theoretically, by the terms of the insurance policy, but courts in various states have imposed a number of rules on these cases, which control over policy language. Over time, the concept of uninsured motorist has been expanded to include “hit-and-run” or “phantom” vehicles whose operators, after causing an accident resulting in injury to occupants of an insured vehicle, leave the scene of the accident without becoming identified. Thus, automobile insurance carriers generally provide coverage for “hit-and- run” accidents within the uninsured motorist provisions of their policies. There has been a great deal of litigation over issues arising out of accidents that resulted in injuries to insured persons without any physical contact between an insured person or vehicle and the unidentified vehicle which was alleged to have caused the accident. In a number of cases, courts have held that a provision requiring physical contact between an unidentified vehicle and either the insured or the insured’s vehicle as an absolute prerequisite to recovery under the “hit and run” portion of uninsured motorist coverage is contrary to public policy and unenforceable. If you or someone you know has been injured in a hit-and-run accident call Thompson | Wedeking to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.