Accidents on the road happen; it’s something that we all deal with at some point in our lives. Normally, the two drivers pull to the side of the road, exchange insurance information, and (in instances where both people are lucky) continue on with their lives. But what happens if the party responsible for causing the accident leaves the scene of the crash and cannot be identified for the purposes of asserting a claim against them? If you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may look to your own automobile insurance policy for compensation.
The standard motor vehicle insurance policy in Massachusetts requires all autos to carry minimum insurance limits of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per car accident. This mandatory minimum amount is required for claims of bodily injury to others (Part 1 of the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Policy) as well as claims for what’s known as underinsurance and uninsured benefits. Uninsured motorist coverage provides coverage when you, or a household member, are injured in an accident and the responsible party does not have any insurance or you cannot identify the responsible party (i.e., the hit-and-run driver).
Hit-and-run accident victims should be aware of two important required conditions to properly receive uninsured motorist claim benefits. First, the victim or his/her attorney must report the accident to both the police and their own insurance company within 24 hours of its occurrence. Failure to provide the insurance company with prompt notice of a hit-and-run accident is grounds for the insurer to deny the claim and make no payments. Second, while Massachusetts law requires all automobiles to carry uninsured motorist limits of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident, drivers are able to and should buy higher limits of Uninsured coverage whenever possible.
We strongly encourage everyone to check their auto policy, or contact their auto insurer, to determine their current uninsured motorist limits, and consider raising them. Although you will be charged an extra premium for this (and you cannot purchase more insurance coverage than you purchase in bodily injury coverage), it can be a very powerful safety net if you become a victim of a hit-and-run accident. Given the low amount of required coverage in Massachusetts, this is one way to affirmatively protect yourself and your family.