Not infrequently, people are involved in automobile collisions where the driver at fault flees the scene or leaves the scene before the police arrive or before you have identified who they are so that you can communicate with them or their liability insurance carrier in the future. Sometimes the police may have enough information to track them down, but not always. When this occurs, there are legal issues which arise that can be important in determining whether or not you will be compensated for your injuries.
In Virginia, like most states, statutes require YOUR family automobile insurance policy to provide what is called UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE (referred to as “UM” coverage). By statute, the amount of UM coverage must equal the amount of liability coverage under your policy, unless you sign a written waiver indicating you choose not to have this amount of UM coverage. Any policy provision which attempts to provide you with a lesser amount of coverage, without proof of a written waiver, is void, and by operation of law, you are deemed to have UM coverage in the same amount as your liability coverage.
If you suffer injuries and desire to pursue a claim for those injuries, you should promptly give your family automobile insurance company notice of your claim and the circumstances, i.e. that it involves an at-fault driver who is unknown. Your insurance company is required to provide coverage for your claim up to the policy limit of your UM coverage. The sources and limits of coverage are complex issues, however, and often there may be more coverage than initially meets the eye. For example if you have separate policies covering multiple vehicles, you may be able to “stack” the coverages from multiple polices in order to obtain more coverage. The auto accident lawyer you retain should be well-versed in these issues in order to properly represent you. UM coverage also provides what is referred to as UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE (“UIM” coverage) which will be the subject of another post. Claims of this nature should not increase you premiums since it is collisions which are your “fault” which generally cause your premiums to increase.