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Run off the road: Is this a hit and run?


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Question: I was run off the road and hit a tree.  The other car didn't stop.  Will my liability insurance cover this since it wasn’t my fault? Is this considered a hit-and-run accident since we didn’t touch?   

Answer: No. Liability insurance will never pay to repair your own car or for the costs of treating any injuries you suffer.The bodily injury and property damage liability insurance your state requires you to have covers only those that you are legally liable for damaging in an auto accident.

You've been involved in what's known as a phantom car crash. You're not to blame, but there is no other driver (or insurance policy) to blame. That means you'll have to file a claim against your own  collision coverage, if you have it, or pay for the repairs yourself if you don't. (See “You hit what? The Crash-o-matic” for more information on what insurance coverage is used for different types of claims.)

To reduce the potential for fraud, most uninsured motorist coverage has a requirement that physical contact have been made with another vehicle.  Thus, if you have this coverage it is unlikely it can be used. (See “Does uninsured motorist cover a hit-and-run or miss-and-run accident?”)

If you were injured in the accident, then you’d need coverages such as personal injury protection or medical payments

Fault still matters -- a lot

As for your incident, it would be classified as a miss-and-run, which is different from a hit-and-run. 

In both type of accidents, the driver who caused the accident doesn’t stop, but with a miss-and-run there is no physical contact. 

Because the at-fault vehicle is gone without a trace, these accidents are also sometimes referred to as phantom car crashes. It can be hard to prove that there was another car involved, and that also makes it hard to prove that you weren’t at fault. 

No physical contact was made, so unless you have other proof to support your story, the police and your insurance company may try to find that you were at fault for the incident, labeling it careless driving. Being found at-fault is bad because it can result in this single car accident going on your driving record, depending upon your state’s rules for this, and affect your future car insurance rates.

To try and avoid being found at-fault for a single car accident, see if there is any evidence of the phantom car. 

Were there tire marks left on the pavement?  Are there any cameras in the area that may have gotten the incident on tape?  If so, then that could be very helpful not only proving there was another car involved in your incident but in the police tracking down the other driver.

Were there any witnesses?  If anyone stopped to help you after you crashed into the tree, did they see how the accident occurred?  If so, make sure they make a statement with the police -- and your insurance company if you are making any type of claims through your policy.

Finding proof that there was another car involved and that you simply didn’t lose control of your car is worth the effort, if for nothing else but to keep the words “at-fault” off your claims history for the incident.

One at-fault accident can raise your rates by 10 to 40 percent depending upon the surcharge schedule of your auto insurance provider.  If the accident isn’t your fault, then some insurers (and some state laws) say it can’t be used against you. 

More articles from Penny Gusner


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