Hit-and-Run: Am I Out of Luck?

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This Q&A is from partner site CarInsurance.com.

Question: The other day I was driving on the highway and I was rear-ended. There is a big, deep dent on the rear bumper and a busted tail light. I pulled over and the driver that hit me sped on by without stopping. I didn’t get the license plate, nor did I see what kind of car it was. What do I do? Am I out of luck?

Answer: You have two priorities after a hit-and-run accident: Get a police report and collect information from any witnesses. Doing both of these things can help you make a successful claim against your own car insurance company.

Of course, you need to have the right coverage.

If you only have the mandatory bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage, then you’re unfortunately out of luck. These pay for damages you cause to others, not damages or injuries that you sustained in an auto accident.

Uninsured motorist coverage usually doesn’t help, either. Some insurers, in some states, allow a hit-and-run driver to be classified as an uninsured motorist, but only if a police report is made and there’s a disinterested witness to the accident who can verify that they saw a car – whose owner and operator cannot be identified – hit your vehicle.

However, a majority of insurance companies don’t allow uninsured motorist property damage claims for hit-and-run accidents. Their belief is that if they would allow such claims, people would be dishonest and try to place what should be a collision claim under UMPD coverage – short for “uninsured motorist property damage” – to get out of paying their collision deductible amount.

To be certain that damage to your car is repaired, you need to carry collision coverage on your vehicle. With collision coverage, your repairs would be covered, minus your deductible, or your car’s actual cash value could be paid out if its repairs cost nearly as much as it’s worth.

Without collision coverage you are likely going to be left to pay out of your own pocket for repairs after this type of incident.

The biggest portion of any car insurance policy is usually the cost of liability coverage, and you’re already shelling out for that. For many drivers, adding collision coverage isn’t that big of an expense because the insurance company’s risk is limited to the value of the car. Of course, cost varies based on rating factors such as the type of car you drive and your driving record, but it can be well worth the added cost if you could not easily replace your car otherwise.

We’ve been seeing a lot of questions regarding hit-and-run accidents lately – with the numbers of uninsured motorists rising, it’s likely there are more drivers fleeing the scene rather than facing the consequences.

We’d suggest shopping around for a car insurance policy that includes collision and compare its cost to your current policy – and add collision if it makes financial sense.

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