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Hit and Run — What Does It Mean and What Can You Do?

When someone hears the term “hit and run,” it conjures up an image. For some, it’s a baseball play where the baserunner moves toward the next base as the pitch is delivered, and the batter’s job is to put the ball in play. For others, it’s a movie or a song. For lawyers, it is a term we hear often from our potential clients, but one that people frequently misunderstand.

Hit and Run — What Is It?

A hit-and-run personal injury accident is one in which another vehicle strikes the vehicle in which you are the driver or a passenger, or strikes you as a pedestrian, motorcyclist, or cyclist. If the other vehicle (driver) leaves the accident scene, it’s a hit and run.

Rule #1: There must be contact between the other vehicle and either you or the vehicle you occupy.

Why does that matter? Because to activate your own auto insurance, there has to be contact. This rule is based upon the policy language and existing law interpreting insurance policy language. 

Unless you explicitly declined the coverage in writing, your auto insurance policy contains coverage for Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM).  It mirrors the limits of liability for your liability insurance. 

Everyone should read his or her policy and make sure the coverage is available, covers all vehicles and drivers in the household, and is sufficient to cover catastrophic injuries.

Rule #2: You must prove that the other driver was not insured. 

In order to activate your UM coverage, there must be proof the other driver was not insured, had insurance that lapsed, or had insurance that did not cover the incident (like an Uber driver using her personal car).

It is possible to ask the Illinois Department of Transportation to certify that the offender was not insured at the time of the incident. If the person has no insurance, IDOT will report the name to the Secretary of State, and the SOS will suspend the person’s driver’s license.

Hit and Run — What Is It Not?

If you cannot identify the driver or vehicle, you may be out of luck. 

Local police tend to put less than stellar efforts into tracking down partially known people. If you can get a license plate number, it is possible to hire a skip tracer to determine the identity of the person. Then you would then have to go through IDOT (explained above) to confirm there is no insurance.

If there is no contact with the other vehicle, you do not have an Uninsured Motorist case. Some cases have been won on paint scrapings of another color on your vehicle. But all policies require some contact. 

A typical case that is not a hit and run under UM is the lunatic weaving in and out of traffic on the expressway at an excessive rate of speed (also sometimes conditions seen on the I-290 expressway!). If you swerve to avoid being hit by this idiot, only to lose control and hit the median, you’re out of luck if there is no contact. That’s also true if you are a cyclist (like me) who is forced to swerve or brake suddenly when someone turns in front of you or pulls out of a side street. Without vehicular contact, no dice.

Sometimes, the person doing the striking is excluded from coverage by his or her own insurance. I had a case once where my client had a run in with an unknown person in a parking lot. A driver intentionally struck my client with his vehicle, injuring my client. The driver’s insurance denied the claim, because the driver had pleaded guilty to a criminal intentional act, and intentional acts are not covered by auto insurance. My client filed a claim with his own auto insurance company under the UM provision and received compensation for his injuries.

Finally, and rather obviously, if the other driver stays at the accident scene, it’s not a hit and run. However, if the responsible driver stays around but has no insurance, or the policy excludes them as driver or does not cover their commercial use (such as an off duty ride share driver), then you may still have a potential UM case under your own policy.

If You Are Involved in a Hit and Run, What Should You Do?

In all injury cases, the protocol is the same. Make a police report and take photos of all vehicles involved, property damage, and visible injuries.  Exchange insurance information if the driver is around. Get medical treatment immediately. File a claim with your auto insurer, but do not give a recorded statement. Then, contact a lawyer.

For information about compensation in a personal injury case, you may refer to my previous blog discussing how much you can win in a lawsuit.

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.

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