In Pennsylvania, hit and run accidents are an unsettling concern for drivers and pedestrians alike. The prevalence of hit and run accidents makes Pennsylvania residents question the safety of our roads. Every year, numerous individuals become victims of these incidents, and beyond the immediate trauma, they are left grappling with overwhelming emotional distress and mounting financial burdens.
These accidents don’t just leave physical scars; they imprint deep emotional wounds. This is magnified when the victim does not know who the culprit is and cannot bring them to justice. For many, medical bills pile up, wages are lost, and car repairs become an unforeseen expense, creating a spiraling impact on personal finances. As you are going through this storm, an urgent question lingers: Can you still pursue a claim if the at-fault driver remains unidentified?
Legal perspective on hit and runs in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a hit and run accident, (otherwise known as a “leaving the scene” incident) refers to a situation where a driver involved in a vehicular accident fails to stop and provide the legally mandated information or aid. Pennsylvania law is unequivocal about the duties of drivers involved in accidents: they must immediately stop their vehicles at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic.
Moreover, Pennsylvania drivers are obligated to provide pertinent information such as name, address, and registration number of the vehicle they are driving. If injuries are involved, they must also render assistance, which might include transporting the injured or making arrangements for the injured parties to get to medical facilities. The repercussions for neglecting these duties are severe.
Fleeing the scene of an accident in Pennsylvania, especially one involving injuries or fatalities, can lead to significant fines, loss of driving privileges, and even imprisonment. This legal framework underscores the state’s commitment to ensuring responsibility, accountability, and the welfare of its residents on the road.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
In Pennsylvania, auto insurance laws require drivers to have liability insurance. There is another auto insurance policy that is readily available, but optional for Pennsylvania drivers: Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, UM coverage provides protection when an at-fault driver does not have insurance. UIM offers coverage when the at-fault driver’s insurance isn’t sufficient to cover the total damages incurred.
When a hit and run accident occurs, where the at-fault driver remains unidentified, victims can tap into their UM coverage to seek compensation for both bodily injuries and property damages. This safety net ensures that victims are not left stranded with burdensome medical bills and repair costs due to another’s negligence.
The Insurance Information Institute put out a report noting that while Pennsylvania is one of the most insured states in the country, 6% of its drivers are on the road without the required insurance coverage. This is why uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is so important to have as a Pennsylvania resident. The coverage acts as a buffer against the financial implications of being involved in an accident with a driver who either lacks insurance or has inadequate coverage.
While Pennsylvania doesn’t mandate the purchase of UM/UIM coverage, it’s crucial for drivers to recognize its value, particularly in safeguarding against the uncertainties associated with hit and run incidents.
Alternate Avenues for Compensation
For victims of hit and run incidents in Pennsylvania, there exist several alternate avenues to seek compensation beyond UM/UIM coverage:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): PIP is a no-fault insurance, meaning it can cover medical expenses and, in some cases, lost wages regardless of who caused the accident.
- Medical Payments Coverage (MedPay): Coverage dedicated to addressing medical bills resulting from vehicular accidents.
- Collision Coverage: Insurance for damages inflicted on the vehicle itself. It takes care of the repair or replacement expenses of a policyholder’s car in hit and run situations, whether or not the guilty party is identified.
Pursuing a hit and run claim when the driver remains unidentified
In Pennsylvania, pursuing a hit and run claim becomes complex when the at-fault driver remains unidentified. This is where the help of an expert personal injury lawyer will greatly benefit you. At Munley Law, our car accident lawyers can help you navigate the claims process even when the at-fault party is not identified.
When you are dealing with extensive injuries from a hit and run accident, the following steps will help you secure maximum compensation, even when the offender vanishes:
Report the accident
The first and most crucial step is to report the accident to the police. This is a prerequisite step for insurance claims. If you do not report the accident to the police, you may not be able to collect any compensation from your insurance company or from a personal injury lawsuit.
Reporting the accident to the police will also ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers. Call 911 immediately following the accident for law enforcement officers to get to the scene. They will be able to facilitate any immediate medical care necessary and they will start documenting what happened.
Document the accident scene
Documentation of the accident scene is crucial. If your immediate medical needs are taken care of, start taking comprehensive photographs of the scene. Include any visible injuries, vehicle damages, and other notable elements. This documentation will be instrumental in building a solid claim. If there are any eyewitnesses to the accident, gather their accounts of what happened. Their narratives can provide a more complete understanding of the event. They can possibly even steer authorities in locating the fleeing driver.
Take down the contact information of the eyewitnesses, including their full names and phone numbers. The officer on the scene will also take down this information.
Notify your insurance company
The next step is to notify your insurance company. They will walk you through the next steps. However, it has to be noted that insurance companies – even yours – do not always have the victim’s best interest at heart. The insurance company is looking to save itself money, not make sure you get the compensation you deserve.
The best thing you can do is contact your insurance company and tell them about the accident. They will let you know the next steps to follow. However, if they start asking questions that could potentially lead them to contest your claim, do not answer them. You are under no legal obligation to answer questions from your insurance company. Instead, call a Munley car accident lawyer and we will take care of all correspondence with your insurance company.
Call a Munley car accident lawyer
Insurance adjusters are notorious for lowballing their clients when they are in emotionally vulnerable states following a traumatic accident. You are grappling with the emotional trauma of the incident, dealing with physical pain, and perhaps even grief. Unfortunately, some insurance companies will take advantage of that, especially if there is a lack of concrete evidence in a hit and run case. The absence of the at-fault driver can make claim settlements more complicated.
Leave the hard work to us
A Munley car accident lawyer can take over your claim, including investigation, speaking with the insurance companies, consulting with the local authorities, pouring over medical records, and all other aspects. We will make sure your rights are protected and you take away the highest compensation possible.