Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Apr 5, 2022

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Most people are familiar with the horror stories that come from a hit-and-run collision. If you’re lucky to never have been involved in an accident, you may be surprised to learn that they are unfortunately fairly common.

A hit-and-run occurs whenever a driver causes a car accident and then flees the scene without providing insurance information to the vehicle’s owner. Whether exiting a store to find damage in their parked cars or being hit on the highway by a car that keeps driving, hit-and-run accidents are very common and extremely frustrating. If the at-fault driver isn’t around to file a claim against, who handles the damage?

The answer depends on several factors: the type of insurance policy you have on your vehicle, the facts of the loss, whether there were witnesses, and whether the at-fault driver’s identity is known.

You Must Not Be at Fault

In order for an accident to qualify as a hit-and-run, you cannot be at fault for the damage. The most common type of hit-and-run accident occurs with vehicles that are parked. Another driver may back into your parked car or open their door into yours, leaving a dent. In other cases, a driver may rear-end you or side swipe you on the street and then continue driving as though nothing happened.

A hit-and-run accident does not include situations where a driver is forced off the road by another. If another driver swerves into your lane, causing you to run off the road and collide with another object, that is known as a phantom vehicle accident.

You may or may not be found at fault for failure to maintain your vehicle, and the claim may or may not be covered by uninsured motorist coverage depending on the liability determination and state laws.

You can never file a hit-and-run claim for damage that you cause. If you hit another person’s vehicle and then claim that they hit you, you are committing insurance fraud. The insurance adjuster is usually able to determine the cause of damage, and if they believe you are making a fraudulent claim, the claim will be denied and your policy will be canceled.

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Does coverage matter when it comes to who will pay?

It’s important to understand that there are different types of coverages that will help you in the event of a hit-and-run. However, if you’re up against a hit-and-run driver and you only have a standard, bare minimum policy, you may have to pay for the damages and any medical expense accrued out of your own pockets.

If you do not have first-party auto insurance on your policy, your insurance company cannot assist you with repairs, even if the accident is not your fault. In other words, if you have a liability-only policy and you’re involved in a hit and run accident, you cannot file a claim for damage because you do not have the necessary coverage to handle this claim.

Depending on the state you live in and the coverage that you do carry, the accident will either be covered under collision coverage or uninsured motorist coverage. In most states, the default coverage for hit-and-run damage to an auto will be collision. If your accident is covered under collision, you will be responsible for paying the deductible even though you are not at fault. There are a few states where your deductible may be waived if you’re not at fault, such as in Michigan, but this is the exception and not the rule.

If the accident is covered under uninsured motorist, you must still pay a deductible but it will generally be lower than the collision deductible. Uninsured motorist coverage changes from state to state. For example, in California it only applies if the at-fault driver is known and proven to be uninsured. In Texas, a policyholder can choose whether to use collision coverage or uninsured motorist. In New Mexico, all hit-and-run accidents are handled through uninsured motorist coverage.

How Your Deductible Works

Assuming you live in a state where deductibles at not always waived for hit-and-run accidents, you may or may not be able to recover the deductible. As a rule, the only way to recover the deductible is if there is some way of identifying the at-fault driver. If, for example, a witness saw the vehicle and wrote down the license plate number, you can attempt to identify the driver who caused the damage so that a claim can be filed against their insurance.

If you do have any identifying information for the vehicle that caused the accident, be sure to advise your insurance company about it. They will be able to contact the DMV to run a license plate search and hopefully identify the person who hit your vehicle. If they are able to succeed in this search, they can file a claim or help you levy a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

Otherwise, if you do not know who hit your vehicle, you will be responsible for your damage. This is why it’s important to always carry enough coverage on your vehicle and to maintain a reasonable deductible. You never know when your vehicle may be damaged.