Our Virginia law firm is often contacted by people injured in a hit-and-run or uninsured driver car accidents. The way that car insurance provides coverage in a hit-and-run or uninsured driver incident is complicated. In Virginia (VA), a typical car insurance policy states that if you are in a car accident and suffer injuries caused by a hit-and-run driver or someone with no car insurance, your own car insurance will provide coverage to protect you.
This works in a strange way: your car insurance company provides a legal defense to the hit-and-run driver, even if never located, and must pay up to the total uninsured motorist insurance coverage the policy provides (this depends on the severity of the injuries and the damages). This type of insurance coverage in a hit-and-run car accident is called the uninsured motorist (uninsured driver) coverage.
In other words, even if the hit and run driver does not have car insurance, most state laws have this special uninsured motorist (UM or UIM) coverage automatically attached to every car owner’s insurance policy. The coverage means that an insurance company must provide this coverage to pay you for your medical expenses, permanent injuries, lost wages, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and all other damages that clearly arise from the other driver’s fault or negligence.
Given the complexity of determining the type of insurance that applies to your particular car accident situation, we've written a special, in-depth consumer report about how to deal with an uninsured/underinsured driver and ways to protect yourself. Download the uninsured/underinsured driver report here for free.
Uninsured motorist coverage is actually the most important part of your car insurance policy because it is the part that will cover you (the client) if you are in an car accident caused by a drunk driver with no insurance, by a hit-and-run driver who flees the scene of the accident, or just by a person who does not have car insurance.
Other parts of your car insurance are protecting the other person in the sense that your insurance company will pay the limits of your insurance if you are the negligent party. On the other hand, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects you and provides insurance coverage to you if a negligent or careless driver in a car crash with you does not have insurance or even if their insurance expired or lapsed. More importantly, this is exactly what often happens when a drunk driver causes a serious car crash or accident and does not even have car insurance because of a previous conviction for example. Also, this can happen when a negligent person borrows a friend's car and the negligent driver or car owner does not have any car insurance.
In Virginia (VA), and many other states, your car insurance rates may not be increased simply for making this type claim, as long as the accident is not your fault.
Some states require proof of actual collision or contact between the uninsured or hit-and-run driver's car and your “host” car. Other states do not have an actual contact or property damage requirement, but all states require that there be proof and solid evidence that the hit-and-run driver caused the crash in question and if unknown, that evidence exists that the “phantom” driver fled the scene.
In addition, uninsured motorist/driver coverage can usually be found in an employer’s car insurance or truck insurance policy. In other words, sometimes our clients are actually working or driving a company car or truck at the time they are in an accident caused by hit-and-run, underinsured or uninsured driver. In these circumstances, there are multiple possibilities of what companies must provide car insurance coverage. Our client's own car insurance is a possible source along with the employer's insurance on the company car or truck.