Who Pays in a Hit and Run Accident?

Losses from a hit-and-run accident can add up quickly, but figuring out who'll pay for them isn't easy.

Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Picture yourself driving down the road in your car. You're on your way home from work when a truck t-bones you out of nowhere. The impact causes you to lose control of your car. You're injured but conscious. You watch as the driver of the truck takes off without checking on you and without exchanging insurance information with you. You're the victim of a textbook hit-and-run car accident. You're left with a totaled car, serious car accident injuries, and an urgent question: Who is going to pay for this?

Let's look at a few of your best options for financial recovery after a hit-and-run accident.

Insurance Claims After a Hit-and-Run Accident

If you're the victim of a hit and run, you might be able to file an insurance claim to help you cover the cost of car repairs, medical expenses, lost wages, and other accident-related losses (called "damages").

In most cases, the at-fault is legally responsible (liable) for car accident-related losses. But if you can't track down the hit-and-run driver, you'll likely have to rely on your own car insurance to help with expenses.

Collision Coverage

Collision insurance pays for damage to your vehicle up to coverage limits, regardless of who was at fault for the crash. So if you're the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may be able to make a claim on your own collision policy, whether the other driver is found or not.

You'll almost certainly have to pay a deductible, which is the portion of the collision claim you pay before your insurance plan starts to pay. Most people carry a deductible amount of $500 to $2,000 on their collision coverage. If the hit-and-run driver is eventually found and has insurance, you may be able to recover your deductible from that driver's insurance.

Learn more about collision car insurance.

Medical Payments Coverage

Medical payments (MedPay) insurance pays for your medical expenses up to coverage limits in an accident involving your vehicle, regardless of fault, including after a hit-and-run accident. Your passengers' medical expenses would also be covered. MedPay isn't available in all states.

Learn more about MedPay car insurance claims.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

After a hit-and-run accident with an unknown driver, you can rely on uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) to cover your losses if you have it. UIM insurance typically covers injury-related losses like medical bills, lost income, and physical and mental "pain and suffering."

In most states, you'll need to purchase a separate UIM policy to cover damage to your vehicle, but you might not need it if you carry collision coverage. Read the fine print of your policy and talk to an insurance agent if you have questions about coverage.

Learn more about how to make an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim.

No-Fault/PIP Coverage

If you're the victim of a hit and run in one of the dozen or so no-fault car insurance states, your own "personal injury protection" (PIP) car insurance will likely cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and other injury-related expenses like household help. PIP is mandatory in no-fault states and an optional add-on in other states. You can make a PIP claim regardless of who caused the accident and whether or not you find the hit-and-run driver. PIP doesn't cover vehicle damage after an accident or provide compensation for your pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.

Learn more about PIP claims after a car accident.

Liability Insurance

Your liability insurance doesn't cover your medical expenses or car repairs after a hit-and-run accident. Liability coverage helps pay for damage you cause when you are at fault for an accident.

In theory, the hit-and-run driver's liability insurance should cover your accident-related losses, but you can only make a claim if you are able to identify the driver and the driver has liability coverage.

Learn more about types of insurance coverage.

Your Own Health Insurance

You can always use your own health insurance to pay for your injuries.

You will have to pay your deductible and you might have to repay your health insurance company or HMO for some or all of the bills it covered if you eventually receive compensation from the hit-and-run driver.

Learn more about using health insurance for car accident injuries.

Will a Hit and Run Affect My Insurance Rates

Hit-and-run drivers who are caught face civil and criminal consequences. Criminal penalties vary depending on whether the accident resulted in property damage, injuries, or death.

Victims of hit and runs can sue for compensatory damages and punitive damages meant to punish the hit-and-run driver's bad behavior. In addition to criminal and civil penalties, many insurance companies cancel a driver's car insurance policy if the driver commits a hit and run.

A victim of a hit and run shouldn't experience a rate hike in response to a claim. But claim frequency may affect what you pay for car insurance, so if you make multiple claims within a few years, you might see a rate increase. If you're unhappy with your car insurance bill ask for a discount and shop around for a new car insurance company.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer

Hit-and-run accidents are stressful and frustrating. Talking to a lawyer can help. A lawyer can answer your questions and walk you through your options for getting the compensation you deserve. A lawyer can help you file an insurance claim and communicate with insurance adjusters and police officers about the accident so you can focus on getting back to your normal routine.

Learn more about how a car accident lawyer can help you. You can also connect with a lawyer directly on this page for free.

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