Hit and run auto accidents are not uncommon in Rhode Island and I am often asked by clients what are their rights following a hit and run accident. These are complex situations that require you to sit down with a Rhode Island car accident attorney right away to sort out the facts and conduct an investigation.
Generally, if you are involved in a hit and run accident it means that you were not at fault for the collision. People tend not to run when they did nothing wrong. On the other hand, people flee an accident scene for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
- They are drunk;
- Their license is suspended;
- There is an outstanding warrant from an unrelated matter;
- They do not have auto insurance;
- The car belongs to someone else;
- There are drugs or stolen goods in the car;
- They know they are at fault and panic.
If you were injured in an accident caused by another person who then fled the scene, you must call the police immediately and offer them as much information as you can regarding the vehicle’s description, license plate, etc. Also, if and only if, you are physically able – try to take pictures of the accident scene and your vehicle. Also, attempt to locate witnesses who can corroborate your story and who might be able to give additional details to the police to identify the culprit. Finally, follow-up with a Rhode Island auto accident lawyer. There are two likely scenarios following a hit and run accident:
1) The at-fault driver is later identified and caught
In the best case scenario, the police will be able to identify and locate the other driver even if it is a couple of days after the accident. In this scenario you will proceed as if this was an ordinary auto accident. You and your attorney will notify the at-fault driver’s insurance company and proceed with claims for personal injury and property damage. If it turns out that the at-fault driver fled the scene because he or she did not have insurance, then you can proceed through your uninsured motorist coverage.
2) The at-fault driver is never located
This scenario is a little more complicated. You will be able to present a personal injury claim for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering against your own carrier if you have uninsured motorist. If you do not carry uninsured motorist and the other driver is never identified, then unfortunately, there is little that can be done. Also, your Rhode Island auto insurance policy must include collision coverage for repairs to your vehicle. Uninsured property damage coverage does not cover for a hit and run. The reason is that your auto insurance policy requires that it be confirmed that the other driver did NOT have insurance. If the other driver flees the accident never to be seen again then your insurance company cannot confirm that he or she did not have auto insurance. Therefore, you will only be able to repair your vehicle through your collision coverage.
If you proceed through uninsured motorist coverage, then your insurance company steps in the shoes of the at-fault driver’s insurance company and will have to pay the damages for your personal injury claim. As you can see, hit and run auto accidents can become quite complex and it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Rhode Island attorney right away to make sure that you preserve your rights.