- How to Deal With a Hit-and-Run Accident
How to Deal With a Hit-and-Run Accident
Let’s start this article by noting that any accident can be terrifying, but a hit-and-run accident – even if it happens to your parked car while you’re safely at work or wandering through a grocery store – can be genuinely traumatizing. Having your property damaged by someone careless (or cruel) enough to leave the scene of the accident is simply devastating. In some ways, it can even feel more personal than being involved in an everyday highway collision.
All those emotions aside, one reassuring fact to remember is that a hit-and-run accident is generally treated the same as most other vehicular accidents when it comes to the application of Michigan’s laws and no-fault insurance regulations.
So, the actions you’d take after just about any other accident come into play here. We’ve outlined them in a detailed article published in September, but here’s a quick recap to refresh your memory. After any accident (and particularly a hit-and-run accident), you should follow the steps below to ensure the security of everyone in your vehicle, both physically and financially:
First, check for injuries and immediately call 911 if anyone has been hurt. But, remember that if the hit-and-run accident simply caused damage to a parked vehicle, you would be better off contacting law enforcement officials through their non-emergency number. This way you won’t tie up a line if someone is reporting a serious incident, possibly endangering lives in the process.
Second, if possible, safely move your vehicle out of the road’s travel lanes so you’re not impeding traffic flow. If the damage has been inflicted on a parked car, you may want to inquire at neighboring homes or businesses to see if anyone witnessed the event and can provide additional information that could help identify the perpetrator.
Third, take pictures to document the damage to your vehicle. This evidence can be useful if you need to provide details on the condition of your vehicle at a later time.
Fourth, contact your insurance company and let them know what happened. They can begin the process of handling your claim which can include sending an adjuster to assess the damage and helping you obtain a rental car if needed.
Finally, if you or your loved ones were present during the accident, see your doctor to be examined for any injuries. In the adrenaline rush following an incident, you may not be aware of injuries, so it’s always a good idea to have a healthcare professional give you a thorough examination.
And remember that the September article we’ve mentioned – and which we sincerely hope you will never need – has more detailed information on dealing with the aftermath of an accident, including useful advice on what not to do or say.
How to Avoid Becoming a Hit-and-Run Criminal
Let’s revisit the legalities for a moment. As you likely know, many hit-and-run accidents are caused when at-fault drivers flee the scene because they either 1.) are already on the run for another crime, or are on probation/parole, 2.) are in possession of illegal substances, or are driving under the influence, or 3.) have no auto insurance and fear the financial repercussions of the damage they’ve caused. According to financial advisory website Bankrate.com, Michigan has the second-highest number of uninsured drivers of any state, meaning you’re more likely to encounter insurance-related hit-and-runs here than almost anywhere else in America. While you can’t safeguard yourself from the first two types of runaway criminals, you can protect your property from the third variety through uninsured motorist coverage, which covers you in the event your property is damaged by someone who hasn’t purchased no-fault insurance.
If you – for whatever reason – don’t have no-fault coverage, we encourage you to this timely advice from Michigan’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services: “There is still time for you to get insurance without paying any penalties – but you must apply before January 1, 2022.” So, don’t procrastinate! If you wait to obtain a no-fault policy until after January 1, you leave yourself vulnerable to significant financial and legal jeopardy which can include up to a year in prison and a hefty fine.
Can I Be Charged for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
One more piece of advice: regardless of your insurance status, don’t ever leave the scene if you do cause an accident. Doing so is against the law, can cause painful legal headaches, and is just not an unkind thing to do. According to the Michigan Vehicle Code, the only excuse for leaving the scene of an accident is if you have “a reasonable and honest belief that remaining at the scene will result in further harm.” (If, for example, the driver of the car you hit emerges from the vehicle brandishing a weapon or exhibiting other violent behavior toward you.)
What Happens to My Insurance Rates if I’m Involved in a Hit-and-Run?
Unfortunately, even if you’re the innocent victim of a hit-and-run, your premiums might be affected. As noted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the number of claims you make can impact your insurance costs. But if you personally caused the accident, and you’re later convicted of a hit-and-run, you’ll not only be legally penalized, but also see your insurance rates skyrocket. According to research published by Bankrate, you’ll likely pay more than triple your previous premiums in that circumstance.
Another crucial item to know is that your no-fault coverage in Michigan doesn’t pay for vehicular repairs due to accident-related damage to. According to the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, those costs are handled by your collision or (sometimes) comprehensive coverage. The only time no-fault policies pay for repair costs is if your “properly parked” car is hit by another driver, in which case their no-fault coverage kicks in. Of course, with a hit-and-run situation, you’re in a hard spot since you typically can’t identify the offending to get their insurance to pay out. As an unfortunate result,, that often means you’ll be stuck paying your collision deductible on your own. Therefore, it’s best to check with your insurance company on the specifics of your policy, and to verify you have adequate collision and comprehensive limits to protect your financial interests.
What Happens if I Cause a Hit-and-Run?
Simply put, being convicted of a hit-and-run accident can make your life miserable. According to Michigan law, criminal property damage penalties can result in a cash fine and up to 90 days in jail. However, this pales in comparison to the punitive measures should your hit-and-run cause injuries (a larger fine and up to a year in jail) or kill someone (a massive fine and up to 15 years behind bars). And then there are the civil lawsuits which, simply put, could ruin you financially.
Our advice: If you’ve caused a hit-and-run, get yourself a defense lawyer as soon as possible. You’ll need one. But, if you’re the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run, you’ll want to consult a good personal injury lawyer (like the legal professionals at the Mike Morse Law Firm) on your side to guide you through those difficult circumstances. We truly hope it doesn’t happen to you, but if you ever get hit by a “runner,” calling 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) should be near the top of your to-do list. You can even send us a text message at 833-898-MIKE (833-898-6453) or contact us here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.