Last week, we took a look at the numbers of totally uninsured drivers on the road in South Carolina and what that could mean for you in the case of a collision in which an uninsured driver was at fault. One thing we just barely touched on in that post was the possibility of a car wreck where the at-fault driver leaves the scene without exchanging information.
Since the driver in these cases isn't always located and therefore it's impossible to know whether or not they had insurance, you'll need to take a few different steps in order to get the compensation you deserve.
What should you do if you're the victim of a hit-and-run vehicle collision? Read on to find out.
You Can Still Bring a Case Even if You Don't Know Who Hit You
The state of South Carolina allows the victim of a hit-and-run to sue the "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" who was at fault, even if they don't immediately know who hit them or know which insurance company to contact.
This is covered under "uninsured driver" insurance. There are three requirements in order to make a claim against "John/Jane Doe" in these cases:
- The accident must be reported within a reasonable period of time after the accident occurs — either by the plaintiff or on their behalf.
- Either the injury and/or damage to the vehicle must have been caused by physical contact with the other vehicle, or the accident must have been witnessed by someone other than the owner/operator of the insured vehicle (and must sign an affadavit confirming the facts of the collision).
- The plaintiff was not negligent in failing to determine the identity of the John Doe at the time of the collision.
These three requirements are straightforward, and are designed to ensure that hit-and-run accidents aren't staged or reported in order to commit insurance fraud.
A police report dated within a reasonable amount of time after the wreck occurred ensures an officer was able to corroborate the details of the car wreck, as well as the personal injury or property damage involved. The testimonial from an unrelated witness and physical evidence helps to build your case. The third requirement essentially ensures that drivers will exchange insurance information if at all possible, instead of letting time lapse and then being unable to identify the person who hit them.
How much Uninsured Motorist Insurance should I have?
South Carolina law requires the plaintiff to have the right to recover in these cases if there is someone to recover against. If you can't identify the person who hit you, or if the person responsible for the collision does not have liability insurance, the entity you are recovering compensation from becomes your insurance company, via your uninsured motorist policy coverage.
You are legally required to purchase uninsured-driver insurance for a minimum of $25,000 in coverage of bodily injury per person and $50,000 in bodily injury per accident, we do recommend you get as much coverage as you can afford to protect you in the event of a hit-and-run collision. You can purchase additional uninsured motorist coverage up to the amount of liability coverage that you purchase.
Although uninsured motorist coverage beyond the $25,000/$50,000 statutory minimum is available, many drivers opt not to pay for it, believing the risk of being the victim of a hit-and-run is not high enough to warrant the extra cost on their policy. In the case of a "John Doe" accident, this leaves you unable to file for compensation beyond whatever your basic insurance coverage allows.
Were You Offered Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
While you're not legally required to have uninsured motorist insurance beyond the minimum limits, your insurance company is legally required to offer it to you when you sign up for your policy. In most cases, your insurance agent will walk you through detailed lists of what your policy covers and the amounts you are covered up to before you sign up.
If you reject any particular aspect of the offered policy (turning down uninsured coverage, for instance), you will end up signing something to that effect, as well as signing for what you do accept. If you don't have a copy of your insurance policy, ask for one today and keep it in a safe place within your home.
If you are able to prove you were never offered uninsured motorist insurance, then your policy may be reformed to include increased uninsured motorist coverage, allowing you to recover against your insurance company as if you had purchased the insurance that should have been offered to you.
Were You the Victim of a Hit-and-Run?
In the case of a "John Doe" automobile accident, you may wonder who to turn to when you don't even know who hit you.
When bringing a claim against your insurance company in order to receive the compensation you are due after a hit-and-run, it's important to speak to a legal representative in order to ensure all your bases are covered.
At BNTD Law, we have experience practicing in the area of automobile accidents, insurance bad faith, motorcycle collisions, and wrecks involving tractor trailers from our offices in Columbia, South Carolina. We'd be happy to speak with you about your unique situation and help you in your decision on what step to take next. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online at any time to request your FREE consultation.