If you can’t find who to sue after a hit-and-run accident, how will you be able to recover compensation? Does that mean you will need a lawyer after a Phoenix hit-and-run accident? Hiring one can improve your chances of recovery in this situation.
A lawyer can do investigative work on your behalf to help police find the responsible party. They can also tell you your legal options for recovery and negotiate with insurers if you have coverage for these kinds of situations. Here’s what hit-and-run victims need to know.
Your First Defense: UI/UIM Coverage
In Arizona, assuming you have your own auto insurance, you should have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UI/UIM) coverage by default. It’s a requirement for Arizona drivers. The minimum coverage is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
If the police cannot identify the other driver to find out their insurance information, your lawyer can help you file a claim with your own insurance to get this coverage. The insurance industry accepts hit-and-run drivers as uninsured drivers for claims.
Therefore, as an Arizona resident, you have a way to get compensation even if the other driver is never found, so long as you’re carrying auto insurance. If you’re a driver who doesn’t have it though, you may not be able to recover any compensation. A consultation with a lawyer will tell you your options.
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What if I’m Owed More Than My Coverage?
This is a complicated situation and a place where a lawyer can really come in handy. Insurance companies can do something called subrogation to get money back from a settlement. Subrogation gives a third party the right to sue an at-fault party over a situation.
Here’s what might happen in a hit-and-run situation with subrogation. You get hit and make a claim against your own uninsured motorist insurance. Let’s say you get the minimum of $25,000 upfront, though your case is worth more.
Later, after an investigation, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is found and settles the case for $75,000. Subrogation lets your insurer get back the $25,000 they already paid you from the at-fault driver’s insurer.
So, you can’t “double dip” from your insurance and their insurance for the same accident, but you’ll still get paid the full final settlement. This is a situation that can crop up in Phoenix hit-and-run cases.
Will the Criminal Case Interfere With My Settlement?
No, it will not. The criminal and civil court systems are two separate systems. Even if your hit-and-run driver is declared not guilty of a crime, the evidence may be enough to allow you to prevail in civil court because of a different evidentiary standard.
Criminal cases have to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Civil cases have to be proven based on a “preponderance of the evidence.” As long as the jury or judge thinks there’s a greater than 50% chance that the at-fault driver did it, you’ll win your case.
Of course, not all hit-and-run cases go to civil trial. If the evidence is clear from police reports and medical records that a particular driver is responsible, their insurance company will most likely settle instead of going to court. Only around 10% of all personal injury cases end up in a courtroom.
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Should I Wait Before Filing an Uninsured Motorist Claim After a Hit-and-Run?
A lawyer’s advice is invaluable here. Your medical care cannot wait, but they may be able to negotiate with your medical providers to delay payment so that the police have more time to find the hit-and-run driver.
There are a lot of factors to consider about when to file your claim, so we encourage you to speak with a hit-and-run lawyer in Phoenix first before you call your insurance about the accident. You have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim before you reach the statute of limitations.
Your insurance company might learn that you have a potential uninsured motorist claim and try to contact you early to get a fast settlement. It may seem tempting to take it, but you shouldn’t do so before talking with a lawyer first. You could get more money with their help.
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Could I Be Eligible for Punitive Damages?
If your case goes to trial, a hit-and-run situation is a perfect example for punitive damage claims. Punitive damages are a punishment by the court to an at-fault party that can award you money above and beyond insurance policy limits.
These damages punish people who act with gross negligence, and a hit-and-run accident certainly qualifies. These are only awarded if you decide to take your case to court, you win, and the court agrees you should get them. Thus, you must have a lawyer on your side.
Yes, You Need a Lawyer After a Hit-and-Run Accident
As you’ve just read, there are lots of ways a lawyer can help you after a hit-and-run accident in Phoenix. We encourage you to speak with one through a free consultation once you’ve been diagnosed with injuries after your accident. Without one, you’re at a disadvantage for getting the full value of your case. Contact us at Zanes Law today to get started.