It’s a nightmare scenario for many drivers. You consider yourself to be a safe and prudent driver yourself and know how to drive defensively. But out of the blue someone smashes into you on a road or highway, disappears into the distance, leaving your vehicle a mangled wreck and you on the way to hospital in an ambulance. What can you do to minimize the financial impact?
There are two basic scenarios that can eventually help you with the effects of an accident involving a so-called ‘phantom’ driver, i.e. someone who doesn’t stop to help and share insurance details. The first is to use your own insurance policy, which may include a clause that protects you from such an accident.
Some drivers are unaware that their policy has such a clause. The other is that the driver is caught by police and faces not just a criminal charge of ‘leaving the scene of an accident’ but a civil claim against them for damages.
Medical Bills After an Accident with a Phantom Driver
Note that if you have an insurance policy in a no-fault state, i.e. PIP type insurance, your basic medical costs should be covered, even if the phantom driver is not caught. PIP policy maximum payouts tend to be restricted and the policies have an excess, as well. You often end up paying for minor injuries out of your pocket because of the excess, while major injuries such as traumatic brain injury or spinal damage are likely to be much higher than your policy will pay out for.
That means that if you are in a position to file a personal injury claim (if the driver is caught and is discovered to have insurance) you will be in a much better position to have all your medical bills paid rather than have to take out a loan or sell an asset.
Property Damage Bills After an Accident with a Phantom Driver
The same situation applies to the cost of property damage, except that most PIP insurance policies, if that’s what you have, do not cover property damage. You are expected to recover that back from the at-fault driver, which in the case of an accident with a hit and run driver, depends on the driver being caught.
You should check your insurance policy carefully, because you may already be paying for additional cover which includes property damage. You may be surprised just how many drivers don’t know the full details of their own car insurance policy.
If the driver is found, you will need to include the full cost of towing the vehicle away from the crash site, repair or replacement of the vehicle and the cost of hiring another car while yours is repaired.
How a PI Claim Can Help Pay Bills After a Phantom Driver Accident
Filing a PI claim depends entirely on finding the hit and run driver, who will, in most cases, be facing criminal charges against him / her by police. The charges don’t affect you directly as they are not going to pay your bills, but the fact that the phantom driver ends up being charged and convicted for ‘leaving the scene of an accident’ does make it much easier for you to prove evidence of negligence.
This is always the most difficult part of filing a personal injury claim. The claim also depends on the driver having insurance. If the car was stolen, for instance, or driven by a minor without permission, this might be more difficult.
Working With a PI Lawyer
It is important to talk to a PI lawyer as soon as you can after an accident with a phantom driver. The lawyer will discuss your legal options, liaise with police over an investigation pending and help with a PI claim if that becomes feasible.