Hit-and-run accidents are covered by any uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage on your insurance policy. To bring a UM claim for compensation, a few conditions generally apply:
[See Insurance Code § 11580.2(b)(1) for the “physical contact” (direct application of force) requirement from the unknown operator’s/owner’s vehicle. Orpusan v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. (1972) 7 Cal.3d 988].
Alternatively, some other instrumentality (rock, loose debris, another car) that may be propelled into you or your vehicle caused by the hit-and-run vehicle or other variations from direct physical contact may establish coverage.
[See Oanh Thai
Pham v. Allstate Ins.
Co. (1988) 206
If you fell off a motorcycle while trying to avoid being hit or swerve to avoid the dangerously driving hit-and-run vehicle, you typically cannot bring a UM claim.
The purpose or rationale for the contact requirement is to prevent fraud (Example, a claimant caused his or her own solo accident hitting a light pole or center divider, and then made up a story that a phantom vehicle caused the accident).
2. Report to Police / Law Enforcement: You must report the accident to the police within 24 hours. See Insurance Code §11580.2(b)(2).
3. Notify Your Insurance Company: You must report the incident to your insurance company within 30 days after the incident. See Insurance Code §11580.2(b)(2).
If 24 hours have passed, and you did not contact the police, don't give up. Contact the police immediately. Also, give you insurance company notice as soon as possible that you will be making a UM claim based on a hit-and-run accident. The insurance carrier may decide to allow coverage anyway. Further, you can argue that the insurance company suffered no prejudice by the delay because the law requires “prejudice” to justify denial of coverage. Beck v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. (1976) 54 Cal.App. 3d 347. But if less than 24 hours has passed, report the accident within the 24 hour deadline!
Insurance Company Investigation: Your insurance company will investigate the hit-and-run accident. They will inspect your vehicle. They will look for paint transfers. They will search for fresh damage to your vehicle. In short, they are searching for evidence of actual contact.
Steps you can take to protect your legal rights are:
1. Attempt to obtain the license plate number, including the make and color of the vehicle that struck you.
2. Notify the police department within 24 hours (the sooner the better) of the hit-and-run accident. Provide as much detail as possible.
3. Make a claim with your automobile insurance policy as soon as possible but within 30 days;
4. Examine your vehicle carefully for ANY evidence of contact from the phantom vehicle.
5. Do not attempt to
make or allow any repairs to your damaged car or vehicle BEFORE your
company inspects the damaged vehicle;
6. Obtain the name, address, and telephone/cell number of each person who witnessed the incident. This will help your insurance company investigate the accident.
7. At the first interview by any paramedics, ambulance personnel, at admission to the hospital, or at your first visit to a doctor, let them know about the unknown phantom car that caused the accident.
8. Most importantly, have substantial limits of uninsured motorist in case an accident occurs with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver.
A high percentage of
Uninsured motorist coverage will cover your medical expenses, loss of earnings, and pain, suffering and emotional distress caused by the uninsured or hit-and-run driver who is at fault.
Substantial uninsured motorist limits is highly recommended.
If you have been in a car accident and want to talk with experienced car accident attorney, contact the law office of Matthew B. Tozer today at 949-863-9445.
CAVEATS / WARNINGS:
Hit-and-Run and UM laws are complicated: Such laws and the court rules and cases that interpret and apply them, are complicated. Even if you believe that you don’t meet a condition for bringing a claim, do not rely on this article, but immediately seek consultation and legal advice from a lawyer to determine if any of the exceptions or rules apply or not to your case.
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