How Does Insurance Cover Hit-and-Runs?

How Does Insurance Cover Hit-and-Runs?

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Being the victim of a hit-and-run can be a traumatic, even life-threatening experience. Fortunately, collision, uninsured motorist and personal injury coverages can all help cover the costs of medical care or repairing your car after a hit-and-run accident, whether or not you are able to identify the driver responsible. Consider adding these coverages if you don't already have them, as you'll likely otherwise be responsible for repairing the damage yourself.

What Kind of Insurance Covers Hit-and-Runs?

There are several kinds of auto insurance that may cover you after you experience a hit-and-run: Collision, uninsured motorist, personal injury protection (PIP) or medpay, and the other driver's liability coverage. Of these, the only coverage that is mandatory for all drivers nationwide is liability coverage. Making a claim against the other driver's liability coverage is the ideal option, as it will pay for both your medical expenses and damage to your car without you having to pay anything. However, you have no control over whether the other driver has liability coverage, and you can only make a claim against their coverage if you identify them, such as by their license plate.

The other types of auto insurance that protect you after a hit-and-run are often optional coverages that you may or may not have on your policy, though PIP and uninsured motorist coverage are required in some states. PIP insurance, for instance, is required in less than half of the states in the U.S. Some coverage options can also make a significant impact on the cost of your car insurance. So check which of these coverages are on your policy already, and consider which you would like to add, so you're adequately protected in case of a hit-and-run.

If you can't identify the driver, or you succeed in identifying them but they do not have insurance, uninsured motorist coverage will cover you instead. You can choose to add coverage for bodily injury as well as property damage to your uninsured motorist coverage, though you generally can't buy higher limits than you have on your own liability coverage.

Personal injury protection (PIP) and medical payments (MedPay) will both help you defray the costs of any medical attention you receive, if you have it. Your own health insurance policy will cover these costs as well.

Collision coverage will pay for the damage to your car but comes with the drawback of typically having a deductible, meaning you may have to pay for damage that you're not to blame for. Collision coverage applies even if the hit-and-run occurs when your car is parked.

Car Insurance Coverages That May Apply After a Hit-and-Run

Coverage Type
Is it required by law?
Circumstances under which you can make a claim
Personal Injury Protection/Medical PaymentsSome statesIf anyone was injured
Uninsured/Underinsured MotoristSome statesIf you do not identify the other driver, or they do not have car insurance
Liability (Other Driver's Policy)Yes (most states)If you identify the driver and they do have car insurance

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Not every kind of insurance you have will apply to hit-and-runs. Your own liability coverage, which pays for the other person's medical and car repair costs if you are responsible for an accident, does not apply. Neither does comprehensive coverage, which covers damage to your car due to causes other than a collision.

What to Do When You Are the Victim of a Hit-and-Run

If you are the victim of a hit-and-run, whether you are in your vehicle at the time or returning to discover a wreck, start by making sure everyone is safe and out of harm's way; then, call 911. Reporting the accident promptly will ensure that you receive any necessary medical care, as well as provide a record of the accident. Plus, reporting the accident immediately will allow the police to begin surveying the area for the culprit's car.

It may be tempting, but don't try to chase after the culprit. The driver has already shown themselves to be willing to commit one dangerous crime, and they may try more illegal things, like speeding or running stoplights, to get away.

Instead, make a note of every detail you can. This includes the make, model and color of the car, the license plate, and the driver's appearance, if you saw them. It'll also be helpful to write down the circumstances of the accident.

Once the police arrive, they'll interview you about the accident in order to gather all the relevant information and file a police report. It's also worth checking to see if anyone nearby saw the accident or if a nearby home or business caught the incident on a security camera. This footage can assist you in catching the fleeing driver.

Make sure to promptly contact your insurance company and begin the process of making an insurance claim after the accident: The sooner you begin the claim process, the sooner you'll be able to get paid. What's more, many states have a time limit for how long after a crash you can file an insurance claim.

What is a Hit-and-Run?

In most states, drivers are required to stop, identify themselves and provide appropriate aid to anyone else involved in an automobile crash. If someone hits your car—even if it is a small bump—and does not stop, that counts as a hit-and-run. The same goes for if someone hits your car while it is parked, such as in a parking lot.

Most state laws do not differentiate between a hit-and-run on an occupied versus unoccupied car, but they do impose harsher penalties if someone is injured or killed. The penalties for a hit-and-run are often very harsh, in order to discourage people who have accidentally hit someone—especially if they are driving while under the influence—from fleeing the scene.

Matt is a Technical Writer at ValuePenguin who works on distilling the complex details of insurance into accessible advice. He previously created educational content at Grovo Learning and MarketSmiths Content Strategists. Matt's consumer-focused analysis of insurance has appeared in publications like CNBC, Yahoo Finance and the Miami Herald.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.