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June 15th, 2020
No phrase fills a driver with dread quite like “hit-and-run.” Although it’s illegal to leave the scene of a crash without exchanging insurance information with the other driver, at least one hit-and-run accident occurs every minute in the U.S., according to data collected by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Everyone has heard of hit-and-runs, but what about “miss-and-runs”? Don’t be confused by the name; miss-and-run accidents can be just as damaging and deadly as hit-and-run accidents.
This type of accident occurs when a driver (Car A) swerves to avoid another vehicle (Car B) and crashes as a result of this evasive action, with the driver of Car B continuing on without stopping. It’s essentially the same as a hit-and-run accident, but with no actual physical contact between vehicles.
Miss-and-runs are more common than you might think. Typically this happens when the driver of Car B is driving while impaired or distracted. They may deliberately flee the scene to avoid consequences, or they may not have even noticed the accident they caused!
In the insurance world, Car B is what’s known as a “phantom vehicle,” because neither the driver nor the vehicle itself can be identified.
Even if there was no physical contact between your vehicle and the other driver’s, if their actions directly caused the accident, such as by swerving into your lane unexpectedly, they can legally be held at fault.
But if they can’t be identified, you will need to file your compensation claim against your own uninsured or underinsured driver coverage to get payment.
To help your claim, you will also need to file a police report and call your insurance representative right away, the same as you would do if the other driver had remained at the scene.
If you’ve ever had a co-worker hit your car in the parking lot and try to deny it, there was likely still a tell-tale scrape of paint on the side of their car. After serious hit-and-run accidents, police can occasionally locate the perpetrator by the corresponding damage on that person’s vehicle. But in a miss-and-run, there is usually little or no evidence at all.
Unless you have dashcam footage that can prove there was another vehicle and that the other driver caused your crash, your insurance will try to deny your claim.
They will argue that you caused your own crash and tried to blame it on another driver and car that was not there.
The requirements for proving a phantom vehicle claim differ from state to state, and the laws in Louisiana are especially strict. They state that to recover compensation for either property damage or personal injuries after a crash caused by a phantom vehicle, “the plaintiff bears the burden of proving, through an independent and disinterested witness, that a phantom caused the accident.”
(In this situation, an “independent and disinterested witness” means someone who is not also filing a compensation claim for the same accident.)
In other words, your word alone is not enough.
This makes phantom vehicle, or miss-and-run, accidents extremely difficult to prove. However, an experienced lawyer can help build a case using testimony from passengers or even passersby who did not see the crash itself but can confirm a vehicle left the scene that matched the description the driver gave of the phantom vehicle.
At Dudley DeBosier, we know how to improve your chances of getting compensation in situations like these. If you or someone you love was injured in an accident caused by another driver’s reckless behavior, even if they didn’t collide with you, we want to help.
Contact our team today for a free case review.