A lawsuit was filed in Oregon for a fatal December 2010 hit-and-run. Mr. Toner was walking his dog in the grass when a truck swerved off the road and hit him. Fortunately, Florida State Police tracked the driver down. The defendant, Steven Pegues, was sentenced to eight years in jail and three years of probation.
This was a tragic case all around, but unfortunately not uncommon. Hit-and-run cases happen every day—it was fortunate that the defendant was identified. With any luck, the defendant was insured and the family will be able to recover something.
For our Maryland drivers, a hit-and-run accident raises two concerns—uninsured motorist protection, and UCJ claims.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage
The best protection against hit-and-run accidents is uninsured/underinsured motorist protection. If the negligent hit-and-run driver can’t be found, or has very low insurance limits (in Maryland the minimum is $30,000/$60,000, though out-of-state drivers in our state might have lower amounts), then UM/UIM coverage kicks in.
The injured driver would make a claim against his own insurance company, which would essentially step into the shoes of the negligent driver. The insurance company would be able to defend the case with all available defenses, including statute of limitations and contributory negligence. It’s a little counterintuitive, because a driver’s own insurance company can become his enemy.
Good UM/UIM insurance is important, particularly because some accidents are so severe. With lost wages and medical bills, even $30,000 can be used up very quickly. One shock trauma visit can eat up a sizeable chunk, so it’s a good idea to get as much UM/UIM insurance as you can afford.
MAIF: UCJ Claims
If the victim does not have any available uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, he can likely make a claim to the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF). MAIF gets money through fines and violations, and uses that money (when forced) to help people who have been injured in accidents with no other recourse. So, if the hit-and-run driver is unknown or uninsured, and if the victim has no personal UM/UIM insurance (and does not live with a family member who has such insurance), the victim can make a claim against MAIF.
Importantly, these types of claims against MAIF (called Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment, or UCJ claims), have short notice requirements. There are a whole host of things that must be provided to MAIF, typically within 180 days (6 months) of the accident.
The limit for a MAIF UCJ recovery is $30,000. They are tough cases because MAIF fights almost everything, and their adjusters are overworked. In the end, most of these cases have to go to court—a quick auto accident settlement is unlikely.
Just because you were injured in a hit-and-run does not mean that there is no recovery—you may be able to get money for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering through UM/UIM insurance, or through a UCJ claim. If you have questions about an automobile accident, contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-776-4529, or send us some brief information about your accident through our online portal.
More Maryland Automobile Accident Information