Hit and run accidents can be especially challenging for crash victims looking for fair compensation, accountability, and closure.
If an at-fault driver flees the scene before they can be identified, you won’t be able to make a claim against their insurance company. That could leave you out of luck if you have medical bills to pay, and your uninsured motorist coverage (if you purchased it) might not cover it all.
This scenario can be frustrating (and heartbreaking) for people dealing with a hit and run’s fallout. But it isn’t always the end of the case. A car accident attorney can sometimes turn a bleak situation into positive outcome with quick thinking and persistence.
We wanted to share a recent client story, where our investigation uncovered important details after a hit and run. While it doesn’t always work out this well for everyone, this story shows that further investigation into a hit and run “accident” is always worth pursuing.
What Happens After a Hit and Run?
In Texas, drivers must remain at the scene of a crash if there was any serious property damage or an injury. They should also help injured victims (typically by calling 911), exchange driver’s license and insurance information, and wait for the police to arrive. However, people still flee the scene of crashes for a variety of reasons.
Texas has the eighth highest hit-and-run rate in the United States, according to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey.
Our state uses a fault-based personal injury system. Typically, you will file an insurance claim with the negligent driver’s liability insurance company after a wreck. However, if you do not know that person’s identity, you must look for other sources of coverage. They might include:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance: Many drivers in Texas have a modest UM/UIM policy. (Your auto insurance should include some uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage unless you declined it in writing.) It will step in and compensate you for lost income, medical bills, and other losses—up to your UM/UIM policy limits—if the at-fault driver lacks sufficient insurance.
- Personal injury protection: PIP coverage is another optional insurance policy that will cover some of your medical bills and lost income regardless of fault. Again, unless you declined PIP insurance in writing, your auto policy should have a modest amount of coverage.
However, your expenses will probably exceed your policy limits if you have $20,000 policy limits on your UM/UIM policy and $2,500 in PIP coverage.
Unless you can identify the hit-and-run driver, you will likely have to pay your remaining bills out of pocket.
A Hit and Run with an “Unknown Plate” Leaves a Family Reeling
Our client was driving with her 4-year-old son when a careless driver in a gray Toyota Tundra struck her vehicle. The impact was forceful enough to deploy the side airbag and do substantial damage to her vehicle. After the wreck, the driver of the Tundra fled the scene.
Our client was left with a severely damaged vehicle and was very concerned about the long-term physical and mental wellbeing of her son.
Even though the at-fault driver didn’t stop, they left some important clues. A quick-thinking witness drove after the Tundra to get a license plate number for the police report. That’s more than what we usually get in a hit and run case.
Unfortunately, the police officer looked up the license plate number and couldn’t find a match. We got the same result when we looked it up using our database.
Had the trail gone cold? Hardly.
Building a Case Against the Hit-and-Run Driver
Our Investigators Find the Correct Plate Number
It wasn’t surprising that searching our license plate search yielded no results. If the investigating officer couldn’t pull anything up, it makes sense that we would be able to either.
Our team started brainstorming. Sometimes people make mistakes, especially in an emotional moment following a car crash. What if the witness misremembered the plate number slightly, or the officer wrote it down incorrectly?
According to the police report, the plate began with NMW. What were the odds that that “NM” was actually “MM,” “NN,” or “MN”? The Crosley Law team tried searching each new combination.
The first was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the second belonged to a Ford Mustang. Neither were registered anywhere neither San Antonio. Definitely not what we were looking for.
Then we tried the final combination: 2011 Toyota Tundra, in gray. We had our match.
We Connect With the Vehicle’s Owner
Now that we had an accurate license plate number, I was able to identify the registered owner of the vehicle. Then, with the help of our client’s case manager, we discovered that there was a lien against the Tundra.
We contacted the lien holder and informing them about the hit and run accident. The lien holder, in turn, contacted the owner of the vehicle.
The very next day, we got a call from the Tundra owner’s son. He confirmed that his mother owned the vehicle, that she was behind the wheel when the accident took place, and that he would be sending us over the insurance information.
Next Steps: Negotiating With the Insurance Company and Preparing for Trial
This case is brand-new and has isn’t fully resolved yet. But there’s no question that, thanks to a little creativity, persistence, and some good fortune, our client is in a much better position today than when she started.
In a hit and run crash, we rarely get a license plate number. And even when we do, that’s not always the end of the story. Sometimes, the owner of the vehicle will not cooperate, and we never conclusively identify the at-fault driver. Furthermore, many hit-and-run drivers are uninsured.
In this case, the at-fault driver, who is also the registered owner, admitted to being behind the wheel during the wreck. This gives us significant leverage when negotiating a settlement with the insurance company. Discovering the lien and informing the lien holder that the financed vehicle was involved in a hit and run also placed extra pressure on the owner.
From here, the team at Crosley Law will do what we always do—aggressively prepare the case for trial and try to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance companies.
Been in a Hit and Run? Contact Crosley Law
Hit and runs can be especially challenging to deal with on your own. If you don’t know the identity of the at-fault driver or can’t tie them to the car at the time of the crash, your options for fair and complete recovery may be limited.
In these sorts of cases, having a dedicated car accident attorney willing to go the extra mile for you can often make a huge difference.
Again, to be clear: things don’t always work out this well in a hit and run case. But if you want to give yourself the best possible chance at fair compensation and accountability for the at-fault party, reaching out to Crosley Law for help is always a wise choice. At your free, no-risk consultation, we’ll help you review your legal options, identify any sources of insurance coverage that may apply to your situation, determine whether you might have a case, and—if we take you on as a client—get to work fighting for a fair recovery.
Hit-and-Run Crashes: Prevalence, Contributing Factors and Countermeasures. (2018). AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Retrieved from https://aaafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/18-0058_Hit-and-Run-Brief_FINALv2.pdf
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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