Are You Covered For Hit and Run Crashes?
Indiana law requires all people who drive a motor vehicle to have both uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. That law protects you from motorists driving without enough insurance, or no insurance at all. (The only exception is if you sign an explicit, written, signed and dated) waiver–but don’t do that!). Indiana still only requires a minimum of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per collision of liability coverage to drive. Given the current billing rates of hospitals and doctors, those low limits do not go very far.
So long as your insurance policy follows Indiana law on coverage, other details are controlled by the policy itself. Not all auto policies are the same. Most policies have “exclusions” of coverage for certain situations.
When a hit and run driver is at fault for a crash, you can usually make a UM claim with your own company. But some companies add extra rules. Most require there to be a physical impact between the two vehicles. Some companies have also included a rule that the other driver be “identified”. This is, of course, difficult in a hit and run case, since the other driver fled the scene. But in Indiana, our courts have allowed even general descriptions to meet this requirement, since to do otherwise would be unfair, and defeat the purpose of having UM. Gillespie v. Geico General Ins. Co., 850 N.E.2d 913 (Ind.Ct.App. 2006).
Recently, our firm helped a client where her carrier denied coverage based on policy language that said “An independent eyewitness other than the person or persons making claim under this or similar coverage must corroborate the facts of the accident.” The insurance adjuster claimed that this meant “independent witness to the crash itself”. However, that is not what the policy says. The word “corroborate” is much broader in meaning. In our client’s case, the crash facts were corroborated by the two police officers who investigated the scene, interviewed our client, and inspected her totaled vehicle. We had to file a special lawsuit against the insurance company to get a judge to declare that coverage existed.
For many good reasons, Indiana law does not allow an insurance company to use creative “interpretations” of the policy it wrote to deny coverage. The policy must comply with the UM statute, and any ambiguities in the wording of the policy will be strictly construed against the insurance company.
The Indiana UM statute is designed to compensate innocent people who are injured through the wrongful conduct of uninsured motorists. United Nat. Ins. Co. v. DePrizio, 705 N.E.2d 455, 460 (Ind. 1999). This statute has been amended several times since its original passage in 1965, evidencing a clear intent on the part of the Indiana Legislature to broaden the scope of coverage to the fullest extent possible. The law is intended to give innocent victims of a crash caused by an uninsured motorist, including a hit and run driver, fair compensation.