How Does Uninsured Insurance Work After a Hit and Run in Massachusetts?

Hit-and-run accidents in Massachusetts are frustrating for the injured parties who are understandably upset over drivers who failed to stop at the accident scene and to take responsibility for their negligent conduct.  Under Massachusetts law, any motorist involved in an accident with another auto is required to stop and exchange information with the other party that includes your name, address and vehicle registration as well as proof of insurance coverage.

Failure to stop and provide this information is a crime that can lead to criminal penalties and fines as well as suspension of a driver’s license.  If someone fails to stop at the scene where they knew an accident had occurred, or should have known, and did not provide the required information, they can expect police to appear at their home within hours if not days if the other driver, a witness, or a surveillance camera was able to note their car’s license plate. 

Many times, the victim is unable to ascertain the liable party’s license plate number but may have noted a portion of the license plate or other characteristics such as the make, model and color of the car, location of property damage on the car, and a description of the driver. A canvass of the immediate area by police may find a car that matches the description and damage and will interrogate the suspected owner. Unfortunately, too many hit and run accidents result in the fleeing driver going undetected. 

Reasons for Hit and Run Accidents

All vehicle owners are required to have at least minimum insurance coverage on their autos, which in our state is $20,000/$40,000/$5000 or no more than $20,000 to be paid out to any one injury claimant and no more than $40,000 for multiple claimants, and up to $5000 for property damage.  Estimates are that up to 20% of all motorists are operating their vehicles with no auto insurance, which is a major reason why motorists will flee an accident scene. Other reasons for failing to stop at an accident scene are:

  • Transporting illegal drugs, weapons or stolen property
  • Driving a stolen vehicle
  • Operating the car under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Undocumented immigrant
  • No valid driver’s license or has a suspended license
  • Has an outstanding arrest warrant
  • Panic

In many of these cases, the driver feels that he will take his chances about getting caught rather than face what he feels are more serious consequences. 

What to Do in a Hit-and-Run Accident

If you were the victim in a hit-and-run accident, here are some steps to take to protect your right to collect compensation:

  1. Immediately write down the other auto’s license number, even a portion of it, along with other identifying information such as make and model and color, stickers or other possible identifying information. If possible, write down a description of the driver.
  2. Do not attempt to follow the vehicle other than to get its license number and possible description of the driver. It is possible that the driver is armed, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or will take aggressive action toward you.
  3. Call the police immediately and report the accident. If injured, ask for medical attention. 
  4. Take photos of your car and the damage it sustained. Also photograph the accident scene and any debris on the roadway left from your car or the other vehicle. 
  5. If anyone stopped at the scene, inquire if they witnessed the accident and get their contact information if they did. Even if they did not get any additional descriptive information, the witness can at least confirm that you were in a hit-and-run accident caused by the fleeing driver.
  6. Seek immediate medical attention from your own physician.
  7. Immediately contact your insurance company. Most insurers have strict time limits on reporting accidents and may deny coverage if you unreasonably delay reporting the accident. 
  8. Contact a car accident attorney. In some cases, the attorney can perform an investigation to determine if there were witnesses or surveillance cameras that may have recorded the accident. Also, the car accident attorney can make sure your injury claim is competently handled so you can obtain the most compensation available to you.  

Compensation in a Hit-and-Run Accident Claim

Assuming that the driver who fled the accident scene cannot be located, can you still collect compensation for your injuries?

Since Massachusetts is a no-fault state when it comes to auto accidents, you can collect PIP or personal injury protection benefits up to $8000 for lost earnings, medical expenses and other incidentals regardless of fault. This includes collecting PIP benefits in a hit-and-run situation.

But you can also seek additional compensation either from the negligent driver, if found, or from the uninsured provision of your own policy if the driver cannot be located. 

You also have to meet a certain threshold before you can claim additional compensation. There are three criteria, any one of which is sufficient:

  1. Your medical expenses exceed $2000
  2. You suffered a serious injury such as a broken limb, permanent impairment or disfigurement, or loss of hearing or sight
  3. Suffered fatal injuries

If you were taken by ambulance to a hospital for even routine medical attention, you likely will easily meet the medical expense threshold. And, in most cases, it is not difficult to demonstrate that your accident was the fault of the hit-and-run driver. 

Your claim is handled as if you were up against a negligent driver’s insurer except in this case, your own insurer is now scrutinizing your claim and will try to either argue that your own actions may have caused or at least contributed to the accident, that your injuries are not as serious as you claim or were caused by something other than this accident, and that your medical care was not entirely reasonable or necessary.

This is why you should always have an experienced car accident attorney handling your injury claim, even in cases where liability and damages seem apparent and indisputable. 

Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain

Few auto accident claims are issue-free and most claimants will have to overcome the arguments and skepticism of insurance adjusters whose goal is to compensate you for as little as possible. At Burns and Jain, our car accident attorneys have decades of experience in dealing with injury claims and have collected millions of dollars for our clients. Call us today if you were injured in a hit-and-run accident at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.

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