If the other driver fled the scene of the accident and cannot be identified, unfortunately, you’ll be responsible for the damages. If you carry uninsured motorist insurance on your auto policy, it should cover the damages for you. If you don’t have that type of coverage, you may turn to your health insurance.
Hit and Runs and Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Drivers who flee the scene may do so because they are driving without valid licenses or are afraid of being arrested for a crime, like driving while intoxicated.
In response to the ongoing problem of drivers with no insurance, insurance companies offer what’s known as uninsured motorist coverage (UM). This insurance helps pay for your damages when you can’t identify the other party or when the other driver doesn’t have insurance.
Unlike some states, Iowa does not require that you keep UM coverage on your policy. But to opt out of the coverage, motorists must do so in writing. If you’re unsure of what your auto insurance policy includes, take a close look at your policy or call your agent.
What happens if you don’t have UM coverage?
If you have UM coverage, when you file your accident claim with your insurance company, it should pay for your bodily injury damages, provided you have enough coverage. This is your primary form of protection in hit and run accidents.
You may also utilize your health insurance to pay for your medical bills after an accident with a hit and run driver.
If you include other optional insurance coverage on your auto policy you may utilize these as well, like:
- comprehensive; and
- medical payment.
There is the off-chance that if you provide the police with enough evidence (make and model of the car, tag number), they may be able to track down the other driver. You can then hold him or her accountable for your damages via a claim or a through the court system.
Penalties for Hit and Run Drivers
Fleeing the scene of an accident is not only completely unethical, but illegal. The state of Iowa has harsh penalties for the crime, categorized by the type of damages sustained:
- Physical property – If the accident only caused damage to your vehicle (and not your person), the crime is considered a misdemeanor, which carries a potential 30-day jail sentence and up to $625 in fines.
- Bodily injury – If you were injured in the accident, the other party is guilty of a steeper misdemeanor, and could face up to year in jail, plus up to $1,825 in fines. Failing to stop in the event of a serious injury can result in an aggravated misdemeanor charge punishable by two years in jail or up to a year in jail and a fine up to $6,250.
- Fatality – If a driver kills another person in an accident and then flees the scene, it’s considered a Class D felony, which means up to five years in prison and $7,500 in fines.
Get in Touch with an Accident Attorney
If you or your loved is the victim of a hit and run accident, discuss your legal options with Walker, Billingsley & Bair, serving Des Moines and surrounding areas. Our attorneys can explain your rights and how to go about resolving your case. Contact us at (888) 435-9886 today for a free consultation.