What are My Rights and Options as the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident in Maryland?
Maryland law provides that motorists are required to call 911 anytime a car accident results in injuries, death, a damaged vehicle that cannot be moved, and other circumstances designated by statute. Unfortunately, statistics reveal that far too many drivers shirk this duty. According to data collected by the American Auto Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety:
● On average, there are 682,000 hit-and-run accidents every year in the US;
● Around 11% of all auto collisions involve a driver who left the scene;
● The highest number of hit-and-run fatalities occurred in 2016, when 2,046 people were killed in such incidents; and,
● As of 2018, hit-and-run fatality rates have increased an average of 7.2% each year since 2009.
If you are an injured victim or lost a loved one as a result of a hit-and-run accident, you may feel helpless about your situation if no one came to your aid, called 911 or witnessed the accident. Though you have rights as a Maryland citizen, you may nevertheless believe there is no legal option for enforcing them because you do not have access to the motorist who caused the crash. While it true that these circumstances are challenging, you may still have some recourse.
Strategies for Finding the Hit-and-Run Driver
There are some important tasks you can accomplish at the scene of the accident that may increase the chances that you will find the hit and run motorist.
1. Try to record whatever information you can recall about the vehicle while it is still fresh in your mind. Any details you can recall may be helpful in assisting the police to find the phantom driver. This could include the color, body style, make, and model of the vehicle that struck you.
2. Partial license plates, in combination with some vehicle information, might be enough for the police to locate the negligent driver.
3. Try and note a description of the driver and any passengers;
4. Reach out to any witnesses that you believe may have seen the accident;
5. Contact any businesses around the scene that may have security camera video footage of the accident, driver, or vehicle;
6. Take pictures of the damage to your car, which may provide clues as to where the other vehicle would have sustained damage; and,
7. Any other tasks that you think may be helpful to police investigating the crash.
Filing an Insurance Claim
In truth, you may not be able to find the responsible hit-and-run driver, despite your own efforts and those of police. If that is the case, you will not be able to file an insurance claim with the at-fault motorist’s insurance company, but you may still have options through your own insurer. To understand your remedies, you will need to review a summary of insurance regulations in Maryland.
By law, all motorists are required to carry uninsured (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, which may come into play if:
● You are injured in an accident and the responsible driver did not carry any insurance;
● You were hurt in a crash and the at-fault motorist has insurance, but it is insufficient to cover all of your losses; or,
● You were injured and/or sustained property damage in a hit-and-run car accident.
The minimum amounts that you must carry are $30,000 per person injured, $60,000 per accident; and $15,000 for property damage. In addition, Maryland motorists are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage at a minimum of $2,500. It is possible to waive this coverage if you do so in writing.
As such, your UM/UIM and PIP insurance coverage may be a source of insurance coverage that you can utilize if you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident. The process of obtaining compensation is through a “first-party claim.”.
Compensation for Your Losses
When you file a first-party claim under your UM-UIM coverage, you can seek monetary damages for:
● The property damage to your vehicle;
● Your medical expenses;
● Lost wages; and,
● Pain and suffering.
In addition, if you did not waive PIP coverage, you may be able to file a claim for additional amounts related to medical expenses and lost wages. Of course, you can only recover compensation in an amount up to your policy limit – for UM/UIM and PIP. For this reason, many Maryland motorists opt to pay higher premiums for additional coverage amounts.
Claims for Insurance Bad Faith
Just because you are filing a first-party claim with your own insurance company does not mean the process is much easier. Frequently, when a UM/UIM claim is asserted by a claimant, the interests of the injured party can become adverse to the that of the insurer. Insurance companies can still delay, stall, or refuse to pay a reasonable amount for your claim. At times, the insurer may have valid standing other the law to reasonably deny your claim. For example, if you failed to pay insurance premiums or file your claim within the applicable statutorily proscribed time period. However, in other situations, the insurer may not have a valid, reasonable or legal basis to deny your claim. The bottom line is, when asserting a first party claim, you still have rights and insurers are required to act in good faith regarding the rightful claims filed by their own policyholders. For cases where the insurance company does not act in “good faith,” you may be able to take legal action by asserting a first-party insurance bad faith claim, especially where your insurer engages in misconduct when assessing coverage or determining the amount to which you are entitled.
In a bad faith insurance claim, you may be able to recover:
● The amount you would have received had the insurance company practiced good faith in resolving your claim, including medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering; and,
● Litigation costs and interests as authorized by law.
Contact a Maryland Car Accident Attorney to Schedule a Free Consultation
For more information on various strategies you may have to enforce your rights after a hit-and-run crash, contact us to set up a no-cost case evaluation regarding your matter. Our lawyers can assist with an investigation into the identity of the responsible driver, in which case we will pursue a claim through his or her insurance company. If we are unsuccessful in locating the at-fault motorist, we may be able to seek compensation through other sources to obtain for you the compensation you deserve by law.