Automobile owners should know what steps to take when they face one of the most frustrating accidents possible: the classic hit-and-run. If someone hits your parked car, are they obligated to leave a note? What should you do if they don’t? What claim can you file with your insurance company, and ought you file a police report?
Utah’s Hit-and-Run Laws
Utah’s legal code explicitly provides for punishment for ding-and-ditch drivers. Let’s examine the exact language:
(5) Except as provided under Subsection (6), if the vehicle or other property is unattended, the operator of the vehicle involved in the accident shall:
(a) locate and notify the operator or owner of the vehicle or the owner of other property damaged in the accident of the operator’s name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle causing the damage; or
(b) attach securely in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property a written notice giving the operator’s name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle causing the damage.
(6) The operator of a vehicle that provides the information required under this section to an investigating peace officer at the scene of the accident is exempt from providing the information to other persons required under this section.
(7) (c) A person who violates the provision of Subsection (5) is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
A person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor may be sentenced to imprisonment as follows:
(2) In the case of a class B misdemeanor, for a term not exceeding six months
The law is clear: if you hit someone’s parked car, you are legally obligated to leave your personal information (name, address, and vehicle registration number) with either a police officer or in note form on the car itself when the car is unoccupied. Failure to do so means the perpetrator is guilty of a class B misdemeanor and subject to six months’ imprisonment. Hit-and-runs involving bodily injury or death are even more serious and subject the instigator to a class A misdemeanor (up to a year in prison and/or a $750 fine); in Utah, this is not a felony, unlike in other states – for example, Virginia and Texas.
Types of Insurance
There are several types of car insurance. Understanding which types are most likely to cover a hit-and-run of a parked car will help you with your claim.
Liability – pays for someone you hit
Collision – pays for your own car when you hit someone else
Comprehensive – non-human actors; e.g., when a tree falls on your car
So what kind of insurance is your best recourse when you’re the victim of a hit-and-run?
Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist – Property Damage & Bodily Harm pays for crashes when the perpetrator is unable to pay.
First, you need to file a police report. It will be a hit-and-run report, complete with photos, dates and times. Document the incident thoroughly. Take photos showing any scratches or different-colored paint. Filing a police reporpt will make working with your insurance company easier. If the police do not come to your home, they should be able to file a claim over the phone. The report protects the insurance company from fraud.
Next, you need to find your auto insurance contract. You may think you only have one type of insurance (Collision, for example), but may find you have additional coverage – UM or UIM that covers bodily injury, property damage, or both. Property Damage coverage is most applicable in a hit-and-run situation.
Lastly, call your insurance company. Have a copy of the police report at hand. If you have Un- or Underinsured Motorist Coverage, you should be able to successfully file your claim.
Fortunately, Salt Lake City ranks high in safety when it comes to this kind of accident – 178 cities experience hit-and-runs more often. Remember that if your car is parked in a commercial parking lot at a mall, grocery store, or school, there may be surveillance cameras which could have caught the perpetrator. Also ask any bystanders, and immediately call the police.
Christensen & Hymas is here to help if you are the victim of a hit-and-run. We know it can be frustrating to deal with recalcitrant insurance companies, and to understand what kind of automobile insurance you have (every insurance company treats hit-and-runs differently). Call us at (801) 506-0800 or get your FREE accident book here.
Image courtesy: U.S Air Force