Bicyclists and pedestrians are especially vulnerable to hit-and-run collisions. When a bicyclist or pedestrian is hit by a car they don’t tend to be able to chase down a fleeing driver. If a driver gets away the cyclist/pedestrian victim may assume that they will be stuck with any medical bills or other damages that result from the accident. Cyclists should be aware there are things that can be done to compensate a hit-and-run victim.
I believe that urban cyclists are more at risk of having a driver flee the scene of a collision. We recently obtained data from the Illinois Department of Transportation through a freedom of information request regarding reported accidents in Illinois. That data revealed that in 2010 about 12.3% of reported accidents statewide were classified as hit-and-runs, but 31.4% of accidents in Chicago were reported as hit-and-runs. Hit-and-run accidents are relatively uncommon, but they do happen.
Often times a hit-and-run driver is identified. When the driver is identified they can be held personally responsible for their victim’s losses. The victim can bring a claim against the driver for their injuries and damages. In some states flight from the scene of the accident is considered evidence of fault, and in some states hit and run drivers may be responsible for not only the value of the injuries caused but also punitive damages.
If the driver successfully leaves the scene without being identified, the victim of a hit-and-run may be stuck with medical bills. Sometimes there are still places one can look for compensation. In many states the bicyclist may be able to make a claim under other insurance coverage that might be activated by the hit-and-run collision. If the bicyclist owns a car, is a live-in relative of a car owner, or a full time student living away from home (and their parents own a car), there may be an automobile policy providing insurance coverage for injuries sustained as the result of the hit-and-run. If the bicyclist is covered under a non-owner or operator’s auto policy, that coverage may provide insurance in the event of a hit-and-run. Some states require that the actual driver of the hit-and-run vehicle be identified, Illinois does not. If you have questions about whether or not your insurance would cover you in the event of a hit-and-run it’s a good idea to read your policy, give us a call.
Anyone unfortunate enough to be involved in a hit-and-run should treat the collision like any other; call the police, get medical attention, write down witness contact information, preserve evidence through pictures or notes, and try to keep calm. As with all collisions, the best way to avoid them is to be seen. Wear contrasting clothing, ride predictably, and always use lights and reflectors.