If you have been involved in a hit and run car crash and the police have been unable to identify the driver of the vehicle that caused the crash, you may be wondering if you can be compensated for your injury or if have any rights at all.When a hit and run driver causes a car crash, Utah statute provides that “any person who is entitled to recover damages against the owner or operator of the uninsured… motor vehicle” may recover from their uninsured motorist policy.[i] In order to take advantage of this benefit, the hit and run driver must have caused the crash.[ii] Therefore, it is important to call the police and take witness statements from independent witnesses following a hit and run crash, even if you have no hope that the driver will ever be identified.
What insurance is available to me?
In Utah, most drivers carry these “uninsured motorist policies.” If you are not sure whether your insurance covers you for hit and run crashes, call your insurance carrier to make sure that you have this important coverage. If you were the passenger in a car that was involved in a hit and run accident, and you have your own uninsured car insurance, Utah law allows the “stacking” of uninsured motorist policies for Utah residents. This means that if you live in Utah and your uninsured motorist policy was issued on a vehicle in Utah, you can use your own policy if the driver of the vehicle in which you were riding doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your injuries.[iii]
What if the hit and run driver was involved in a police chase?
In some cases, Utah law imposes liability on police agencies for continuing a police chase in unsafe conditions.[iv]In one recent case, the Supreme Court of Utah found that a Utah Highway Patrol officer could be liable in pursuing a car that had been speeding on I-15 through heavy Utah County traffic at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour prior to the fleeing suspect’s collision.[v] In another instance, the Utah Court of Appeals found that a first responder could be liable for causing a motorcycle crash in speeding past a group of motorcycle riders on I-15.[vi]
What are my rights?
Each hit and run accident has its own unique circumstances and unique insurance coverage issues. An experienced personal injury attorney can assess the circumstances of the crash, and the insurance coverage involved. This article is provided for educational purposes only. Nothing in this article is intended to constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such.[i] Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-305.[ii] Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-305.[iii] Id; Travelers/Aetna Ins. Co. v Wilson, 2002 UT App. 221.[iv] Utah Admin. R. 728-503-9(2); Unified Police Department Operations Manual 310.70.[v] Day v. State ex rel. Utah Dept. of Public Safety, 1999 UT 46.[vi] Willden v. Duchesne County, 2009 UT App 213.