The answer is usually yes if you carry Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage.
Whenever you climb behind the wheel of a vehicle to commute to work or to visit a loved one or simply to run errands, you are at risk of being involved in a traffic accident. This accident could be a minor fender-bender, a serious crash, and it could be a hit-and-run collision. There were over 737,000 hit-and-run crashes in the U.S. in 2015, which means that every 43 seconds, a hit-and-run crash happened somewhere in America. Who is responsible if you are involved in a hit-and-run crash? More importantly, will your automobile or motorcycle insurance cover your damages for any personal injuries you suffer?
Hit-and-run accidents occur when an at-fault driver flees the scene of an accident without providing identification, usually leaving you wondering what to do next. After ensuring that you and your passengers are not seriously injured and that you and they are out of danger from oncoming traffic, start thinking about what you need to do next to preserve your claim for hit and run damages. You should immediately contact local law enforcement or highway patrol and seek medical attention if required. Call your car or motorcycle insurance provider also within 30 days to set up an uninsured claim, which covers hit and run.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage For Personal Injuries
If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident in California, your automobile or motorcycle insurance may not compensate you for your injuries unless you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. While only liability coverage is required in California, additional coverage such as uninsured motorist is available, and you should always carry uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy. For automobile insurance, unless you decline uninsured motorist coverage in writing, insurance companies must include uninsured motorist coverage on your policy of at least $30,000.00. For motorcycle insurance, you have to affirmatively buy uninsured motorist coverage.
UM coverage comes into play not only whenever the at-fault driver has no insurance but also if the offending driver flees the scene and you cannot identify them. That is right-UM coverage applies to uninsured drivers and also to hit and run accidents. Sadly, many California policy holders are not aware that UM provisions will compensate them for injuries suffered in a hit-and-run collision. Under California law, there must be physical contact between the vehicles, and no “phantom car” claims will be honored. Also, the hit and run vehicle must be a motorized vehicle as set forth in the code, with no collisions with bicycles or skateboards or scooters paid. If you are struck by a hit-and-run motorcyclist, the UM provisions of your auto policy will compensate you up to the extent of your policy limits.
Injuries & Damages Claims From a Hit-and-Run Accident
If you cannot identify the offending driver and the crash is a hit and run, uninsured motorist coverage will cover any bodily injury damages to you and your passengers, up to your policy limits.
Here is the part that most people don’t know, and your insurance company is not likely to go out of its way to tell you. If you are struck as a pedestrian by a hit-and-run driver, the uninsured motorist provisions in your own automobile insurance policy will apply and cover you for your injuries and damages, up to your policy limits. And your medical payments coverage will also apply in a hit-and-run pedestrian accident.
And there’s more. If you are struck on your bicycle by a hit-and-run driver, your uninsured motorist provisions in your automobile insurance policy will apply and cover you for your injuries, up to your policy limits. And your medical payments coverage will also apply in a hit-and-run accident.
Please do note that you will only be compensated for personal injuries for hit-and-run collisions up to the extent of your own policy limits. The higher your uninsured motorist policy limits, the more likely you will be compensated for the full extent of your injuries. Most uninsured policy limits are the same as your liability limits, although some insurance carriers offer lower uninsured policy limits as a way to save money on the policy. I strongly recommend that anyone who buys insurance should buy the highest limits that they can afford, and they should always buy uninsured motorist coverage with the same limits as their liability limits. I don’t sell insurance, although I do have to explain to many injured clients why their own low policy limits won’t be enough to fully compensate them for their injuries and damages.
If you are struck on your motorcycle by a hit and run driver, you must have specific motorcycle insurance, and you must have uninsured motorist coverage provisions on your motorcycle insurance policy in order to make a bodily injury claim under your own policy. Auto insurance does not cover you or your passengers for injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash, and your auto medical payments coverage will not apply to medical treatment for injuries from a motorcycle collision. Motorcycle insurance UM provisions will not compensate you for injuries sustained in a pedestrian accident or a bicycle accident; only your auto insurance will apply if you have that. As with automobile insurance, you will only be protected up to the policy limits which you have purchased in your own motorcycle policy, so buy the highest limits you can afford.
According to California Insurance Code Section 11580.2, if you report the hit-and-run accident to law enforcement within 24 hours and file a statement with your insurance company within 30 days, you can make a claim for bodily injuries sustained in a hit and run accident.
While a hit-and-run accident is often frightening and is always frustrating, it is important to remember that most auto insurance policies have uninsured motorist coverage. You should take steps to assure that you will be able to make an uninsured claim if you are struck by a hit-and-run motorist. The same holds true for motorcycle collisions and even bicycle and pedestrian collisions.
If you have been involved in a hit-and-run accident, and you have an automobile insurance policy or a motorcycle insurance policy with coverage for uninsured motorist (UM), you can be compensated for your injuries and damages under the uninsured motorist provisions of your policy. At Choulos, Choulos & Wyle know firsthand how devastating a hit-and-run accident can be. Our legal team will provide the help you need to prove your case and to maximize a settlement or arbitration award. Contact us online or call (415) 432-7290 today for a free legal consultation. Your inquiry will be protected by the attorney-client privilege and is confidential.
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.