From a PRESS RELEASE of the Insurance Information Institute
Hit-and-Run Accidents Can Hit Insured Drivers by Surprise
Basic Insurance Coverage May Not Be Sufficient to Cover Expenses That Become the Insured Victim’s Responsibility
INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE
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Washington, D.C.: 202-833-1580
March 2008, Washington, DC – Even though the total number of non-fatal crashes declined steadily from 6.3 million to 5.9 million from 2003 to 2006, the ratio of hit-and-run accidents remained unchanged, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)(1). During that four-year period, one of every 8 accidents nationwide was a hit-and-run.
But there were significant regional variations. For example, with more than one million hit-and-run crashes, the South had nearly three times as many hit-and-run incidents as the Northeast (366,000) and nearly twice as many as the West (650,000), despite California having one of the highest rates of hit-and-run accidents in the nation. The Midwest ranked second nationwide with more than 835,000 reported hit-and-run incidents.
“Many drivers are unprepared for the consequences of becoming the victim of a hit-and-run crash when the other driver cannot be identified,” said Steve Cox, Vice President of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Instead of the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy covering the victim’s costs for medical expenses, vehicle repairs and a replacement rental car, it ends up being the victim’s responsibility to pay the deductible, as well as all other expenses.”
According to the Insurance Information Institute, a non-profit consumer education organization, consumers can protect themselves from the financial consequences of a hit-and-run accident. For example, not being able to identify the other driver is the same as being involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. But, uninsured motorist coverage, which pays for injury and damages caused by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver, is not obligatory in every state. Therefore, some insured drivers are not covered. Uninsured motorist coverage can easily be added to an auto insurance policy.
In addition, some auto insurance companies do not automatically cover the cost of a temporary replacement rental car while a car is being repaired, even if it was caused by a hit-and-run driver. Most cars are in a repair shop for two weeks after an accident. Considering that the average daily rate for a rental car is $50, it can end up costing more for a one-day rental car than for one full-year of replacement rental car coverage, which is only a couple of dollars a month.
According to the data from the NHTSA, 80 percent of hit-and-run accidents cause vehicle damage only. Therefore, the victim’s largest expenses usually are for repairs and a replacement rental car.
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