It’s 11:30 p.m., You are stopped at a red light. Suddenly, you are jolted and struck from behind. You are dizzy and disoriented, but see the shape of a car back up, pull to the side of you and speed off. You didn’t get a license plate number of the car and in all the confusion, you can’t even remember the color or type of car. You are the victim of a hit and run. The pain sets in. You can’t move. You need help. You call 911.
The police and ambulance arrive. You tell them what happened, and you are rushed to the nearest hospital. Your car is totaled. You wake up in a semi-daze and realize half of your leg is in a cast. You are told by the nurse that you fractured your ankle and underwent emergency surgery where a plate and two screws put you back together. You are told you will require additional procedures and extensive rehabilitation. You will not be able to work for an extended period. You panic as you realize your medical bills will pile up and you have no car. The person responsible has disappeared. How will you pay for all these bills, replace your car, recoup your lost wages, and recover for all of the pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of function you are set to endure?
UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE
In Massachusetts, the standard policy comes with a minimum underinsured motorist coverage of $20,000.00 per person, $40,000.00 per accident. You can increase this amount up to $250,000.00 per person, $500,000.00 per accident for much less than you think. I increased my personal policy to $250,000.00 per person, $500,000.00 per accident for only $12! Review your policy and make sure you have the proper coverage in case the story above or something like it happens to you.
Your policy, WITHOUT ANY EFFECT ON YOUR PREMIUM, will cover your personal injuries as if you were suing the driver who hit you in the first place. As long as you were not at fault in the accident, your insurance policy is available to recover for all you have lost as a result of the accident. This coverage also applies to accidents where the person who hit you stays at the scene but has no insurance.
Another benefit to collecting under your own policy for uninsured motorist coverage is that if you dispute the value of the case with the insurance company, you are not required to go to court. Uninsured claim disputes go to arbitration. The arbitration hearing is generally in an office conference room with no audience. An arbitrator, who is mutually agreed upon by your attorney and the insurance company, will listen to the facts of the case, review the evidence for which the majority is your medical records, bills, lost wages and testimony about the effects and problems you have suffered from the accident, and issue a decision within a couple of weeks of the arbitration hearing. The benefit of arbitration is that it takes place much quicker than any court litigation, which could take many years. The expenses of an arbitration are also a lot less than those of litigation. Both parties are bound by the arbitrator’s decision and the case is over.
WHAT IF I AM A PASSENGER IN A VEHICLE INJURED IN A HIT AND RUN?
If you are a passenger who is injured in a hit and run accident, you must access YOUR OWN vehicle’s policy for uninsured motorist coverage. Again, you are accessing coverage so your policy premium will NOT increase. Some, if not all your medical bills/lost wages will be covered by the policy of the vehicle you were occupying, but your pain and suffering and other bodily injury issues will be paid out from your own policy. That’s why it’s important to have as much coverage as possible.
WHAT IF I AM A PEDESTRIAN STRUCK AND INJURED BY A VEHICLE THAT TAKES OFF OR IS UNINSURED?
You will follow the same steps as a passenger in a vehicle. YOUR OWN motor vehicle policy will cover your damages. Your insurance premium will NOT increase. That’s why it is important to have as much coverage as possible.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE MY OWN CAR AND I AM A PASSENGER/PEDESTRIAN INJURED IN A HIT AND RUN?
Under this scenario, you have two potential options:
(1) If you live with a relative related by blood, marriage or adoptions, you can access the coverage of that relative’s policy for uninsured coverage. Accessing that coverage WILL NOT increase the policy premium for your relative.
(2) If you do not have a vehicle and do not live with a relative who has a vehicle, you can access the coverage of the owner of the vehicle you were occupying at the time of the accident.
Nobody wants to be involved or injured in a hit and run accident. It’s confusing, violating, and unfortunate. But, if you are injured in a hit and run accident, you are empowered to protect yourself if it happens. Stay safe!