Car accidents are a natural part of the risk of driving. According to a report by Forbes, the average driver will file an auto accident claim approximately once every 17.9 years. Each time you get behind the wheel, you accept the fact that an accident may happen. This is part of the reason that we buy insurance. In the case of a car accident, the insurance company will step in and cover the costs. What happens when the party responsible for your accident does not have enough coverage? What will happen when you are the victim of a hit-and-run?
Frustration and anger can bubble-up during most car accidents. The idea that you might have to cover the costs associated with an accident for which you are not at fault can only exacerbate those feelings. Some victims of hit-and-runs assume their situation is hopeless and begin repairing their vehicle, paying out-of-pocket for the damages inflicted upon them by an irresponsible driver. What many victims do not know, however, is that a competent auto accident lawyer may be able to secure some level of relief for them, even in a situation where the driver of the other car has fled the scene of the accident.
Phantom Vehicles, Underinsured Motorists, and Hit-and-Runs
The Washington State Legislature refers to vehicles that flee the scene after an accident in which no physical contact has been made between the cars, and cannot be located, as phantom vehicles. Phantom vehicles differ from hit-and-run vehicles. Hit-and-run vehicles make direct impact with your car, cause damage, and flee. Phantom vehicles can contributing to an accident in a number of ways. A phantom vehicle can cause damage by forcing you off the road or inadvertently starting a chain of events that leads to an accident.
Here is an example: Car A and Car B are driving along, sharing the road amicably. The driver of Car A drops a cigarette into his lap and panics, momentarily veering into oncoming traffic. Car C, driving in the oncoming lane, swerves to avoid Car A, but in doing so, clips Car B. Car A, having resolved the situation with the cigarette, drives on, unaware of the damage behind him. In this case, Car C may not be responsible for the damage done to Car B, but Car A is not available to provide compensation for the damage that it has caused.
In most cases, the insurance company of the driver found to be at fault would be responsible for providing compensation to the parties deemed to be the victims in the accident. However, with no way to identify the driver of the other car, there is no other insurance company from which to seek recompense. The victim is left footing the bill for an accident in which he or she is blameless.
The Washington State Legislature created a law that addresses exactly these types of scenarios. Under RCW 48.22.030, insurance providers are required to provide coverage for damages caused by phantom vehicles, hit-and-run drivers, and under-insured motorists. This allows some level of recompense to an insured driver who is the victim of an accident. The law requires that every insurance provider in the state of Washington offer this coverage to the policyholders. Policyholders do not have to enroll in the coverage, but it must be offered.
What Happens When I File a Claim Under RCW 48.22.030?
Essentially, in cases where the insured party has elected to enroll in the coverage required by RCW 48.22.030 and is involved in an accident with a phantom vehicle, underinsured driver, or a hit-and-run, the insurance provider of the insured victim steps in as the insurance provider of the missing or underinsured vehicle. Because insurance companies are allowed to dispute the chain of events just as the insurance company of the party that caused the accident would be able to, from that point, the insured party and the insurance company may become adverse parties, arguing from two separate sides of the issue.
Before filing a claim under this provision, the insured party must satisfy two requirements:
- The chain of events alleged by the insured party must be supported by evidence other than their own testimony.
- The accident must be reported to the police within 72 hours.
Of the two, insurance providers are most likely to challenge the requirement that the claimant provide supporting evidence. The reversal from dealing with your insurance provider as an advocate to confronting them as an adversary can be jarring. It is recommended that you seek the help of attorney to ensure that you receive the compensation you are owed.
Do You Need Help?
Are you looking for a Spokane lawyer to represent you in your auto accident case? I have years of experience in everything from DUIs to personal injury claims, and I provide my clients with zealous, reliable representation. If you have questions, concerns, or need help, reach out to my office today for a free consultation, and let me get to work on securing the justice which you deserve.