The answer to that question depends on several factors. For example, let us say you are driving, obeying all applicable traffic laws, when someone rear-ends you. Normally, both parties will get out and exchange information while they wait for law enforcement to arrive. But what happens when the offending motorist flees the scene?
Immediately, you should attempt to get a photo of their license plate, and call 911. It is important to give the investigating officer as much information as possible so they may attempt to track down the phantom vehicle and/or its operator. Also, try to locate witnesses on the scene who may be able to help identify the fleeing party. Fortunately, if law enforcement cannot locate the offending vehicle and/or its operator, they will indicate that on the accident report.
In this scenario, the victim must have active uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their vehicle to be compensated for bodily injuries. What that coverage does is protect you in the event the at-fault party has no insurance or inadequate coverage to satisfy your damages. The fleeing vehicle was at fault, made contact with the victim’s vehicle and was unidentified. An unidentified driver and vehicle fall into the category of an uninsured motorist. So, it is vitally important that you maintain uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on all of your vehicles. If you do not, and if the driver and/or vehicle cannot be identified, you may have to come out of pocket for your related expenses. If you have collision coverage you can file a claim for your property damage with your insurer subject to the cost of your applicable deductible.
Our first scenario is fairly straight forward. But what if the unidentified motorist causes an accident, without vehicle to vehicle contact? This is commonly referred to as a “miss and run” accident. Maybe the offending vehicle ran you off of the road without contact, or something fell from their flatbed and your vehicle collided with that object. In Louisiana, miss and run collisions are typically covered under an uninsured motorist policy. However, the burden rests upon the injured party to prove that the collision did in fact occur. By Louisiana standards, this is not an easy burden to successfully carry. The reason being is the injured party must have an independent and disinterested witness testify that the injury was caused by a driver of a vehicle whose identity is unknown. Louisiana jurisprudence has held that the witness does not have to actually have seen the accident occur, but that the injuries were resulting from the actions of an unidentified vehicle. There have been cases in Louisiana where the investigating officer has been accepted as an independent and disinterested witness, without having to have seen the accident occur.
It is important to take steps in protecting yourself and your family from expenses related to a hit and run collision. Make sure you maintain uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on all of your vehicles. If you are involved in a wreck, call the police and gather as much evidence on the scene as possible. We all have cell phones equipped with cameras nowadays and when used properly, they can be a great tool in being your own investigator. Be sure to contact a personal injury lawyer as well.
Thanks to Ezra Pettis, Jr., from Delphin Law Offices for his insight into hit and run cases.