Hit-and-run crashes are a serious problem in Texas and nationwide. USA Today reported a 13.7 percent increase in hit-and-run fatalities over a three year period, even though overall traffic deaths fell 4.5 percent during that same time. An AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study showed around one-fifth of all pedestrian deaths occurred in hit-and-runs and 60 percent of fatal hit-and-run crashes involved pedestrian victims. Alcohol was described as a big part of the reason for so many hit-and-run collisions.
Texas changed its laws in 2013 because previous regulations created an incentive for drunk drivers to leave accident scenes. Prior to the law change, the maximum penalty for leaving a crash scene without rendering aid was half the penalty of causing a fatal crash while driving drunk. Texas imposed tougher penalties for hit-and-runs, changing the charge from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. The possible consequences of conviction went from a 10-year maximum prison sentence to a 20-year maximum sentence, which is the same maximum sentence as intoxicated manslaughter.
While changing laws to impose harsher penalties can help reduce the incentive for hit-and-runs, these kinds of accidents still happen. If you are involved in a collision and the driver who has caused your accident leaves the scene, you need to know how to deal with your insurance company after a hit-and-run accident.
How to Handle a Hit-and-Run Claim
The state of Texas mandates all drivers purchase liability coverage, including $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident in coverage in case of injuries. Liability coverage only pays to others if you cause an accident. If you are hurt by someone else causing a crash, you should be able to make a claim against the driver responsible for the accident. His liability coverage will pay for your losses if the insurer accepts fault. This is a problem, however, in a hit-and-run. You don't know who the driver is, so you cannot make a claim against him.
You can try to go to your own insurer to get coverage. However, your policy may not pay out. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, your insurer stands in for the insurer who actually should pay you (the insurer covering the driver who hit you). Uninsured motorist coverage, however, is optional in the state of Texas. Many people do not buy this coverage, despite the serious risk of hit-and-runs or crashes with uninsured drivers. If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage and the driver who hit you is not found, you may have little recourse.
You can, however, consider whether there are other ways to get at least some benefits and costs covered. For example, if you were driving for work at the time of the hit-and-run, you could make a workers' compensation claim. If your employer has opted in to workers' comp insurance, you could get your medical bills and partial lost wages paid.