There are ways you can help the police or your insurance company identify who hit your car
If you’re involved in any car collision in Michigan, you’re legally obligated to stop at the scene. Failure to do so could result in your being charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
Here’s a snapshot of the number of injuries and fatalities associated with Michigan hit and run accidents in 2019:
If you’re the person who was injured, how can you recover damages (costs related to the accident) if you don’t know who hit you?
Well, that’s tricky.
Michigan is a no-fault insurance state, which means if you suffer damages in a car accident, you’d make a claim on your own insurance policy. If your policy covers all of your costs, then it works great.
But if your damages add up to a higher amount than your policy limits, then you could be looking at paying out-of-pocket for additional expenses.
Can insurance pay for hit and run damages?
There are 2 types of optional insurance coverage that can help when you’re in a hit and run.
Collision insurance is optional and can be added to your required coverage. Broad collision coverage would include any damage to your vehicle as a result of the crash. If you’re not at fault, it would cover the damages and your deductible, but if you were at fault you’d be responsible for covering your own deductible. You could also opt for limited collision coverage, which would apply only if you are not at fault.
Uninsured motorist coverage
Uninsured motorist insurance is also optional and is intended to provide additional coverage if your own insurance doesn’t cover the extent of your injuries and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage is also used for hit and run accidents.
You could rely on either of these components to your insurance policy — if you have them — to pay for your damages following a hit and run.
There’s no doubt that when there’s a hit and run, it can be difficult to identify the liable party.
Even if you don’t know right away who it was, law enforcement has methods for tracking down hit-and-run drivers. For instance, they might check for surveillance cameras in the area where the crash happened to see if it was captured on video. They might also interview witnesses or look for other physical evidence to determine the driver’s identity.
If you or law enforcement are able to identify the driver, you can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover any damages not covered by your insurance.
Hit and run accident with an unoccupied parked car
The rules are the same if a driver hits an unoccupied parked car. The difference for the victim is that they could file a claim for property protection insurance (PPI) benefits from their own insurance company. PPI would cover physical damage to the car and loss of use.
A mini-tort, which is a lawsuit that allows the victim in a car accident to claim some damages from the at-fault person’s insurance company (even in a no-fault system) to pay for damage repair costs or the victim’s collision coverage deductible, is not permitted in a hit and run with an unoccupied parked vehicle.
Michigan hit and run laws
If you’re involved in any car accident that causes any amount of property damage or injury to another person, you’re required by law to stop and exchange information with the other involved parties, and then offer medical assistance by calling 911 if necessary.
The information drivers must provide include:
- Driver’s name and address (and the vehicle owner’s name and address, if different)
- Driver’s license number
- Insurance information
- Vehicle registration number
In addition, you’re required to show your driver’s license to either the police, the person who you hit, or the driver or passengers in the car that was hit.
The only exception to this requirement is if you have a “reasonable and honest belief that remaining at the scene will result in further harm.” If that’s the situation, you must immediately report the accident to a police officer with the required information.
Penalties for a hit and run
Why do people hit and run?
There are a lot of reasons why someone might leave the scene of an accident. They might panic, especially if it’s a young driver, and be unable to think clearly in the moment (or decide that they don’t want their parents or spouse to find out). A hit-and-run driver also might have an arrest warrant against them or illegal substances or items in their car. It could also be that the driver doesn’t have insurance and knows they can’t pay for damages, so they think that if they flee they won’t be responsible.
So, yes, there can be repercussions to someone who “faces the music” for a collision. And maybe a 17-year-old driver who’s on their parents’ insurance isn’t happy about what’s about to happen when their parents find out... or perhaps a driver knows they’re deep in debt and is worried about paying for damages.
BUT, while there are natural consequences to a car crash, if you leave the scene of a crash, you’ll have to deal with those consequences and the potential for criminal charges.
In general, hit and run penalties are based on the severity of crash injuries.
|Death||Guilty of a felony
Prison up to 15 years
Fine up to $10,000
|Personal injury||Guilty of a misdemeanor
Jail for up to 1 year
Fine up to $1,000
|Property damage||Guilty of a misdemeanor
Jail up to 90 days
Fine up to $100
Defenses to a hit and run charge
There are a few ways drivers (or their attorneys) commonly defend themselves against a hit-and-run charge.
- The person charged was not driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. This could be a case of mistaken identity, or it could be someone driving your car after you reported the car stolen.
- You provided the required information. If you hit a parked car, for instance, you might not be able to locate the owner to inform them of the accident. If that happens, you must leave a note with the information and call the local police department to make an accident report. This would satisfy the legal requirement to avoid a hit-and-run charge.
- There was no damage. If you hit another car or property and there was no damage (visible or otherwise), then you can’t be charged with a hit and run. If you were not aware that you hit another car, that might also be a defense to a hit-and-run charge.
What to do after a hit and run
...If you caused the crash
Stop. Move your car to a safe spot where it’s out of traffic.
If you’ve hit a car with a driver, calmly approach the other driver and check to make sure they are unhurt. Provide the required information. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately to get the help they need.
If you’ve hit a parked car, check to see if there’s a way to contact the driver. If you’re in a shopping center or office parking lot, you might be able to have the management page or notify the owner of the car. But if you hit a car in an area where you can’t find the owner right away, you can satisfy the Michigan requirements by leaving your information in a note on their windshield.
Michigan doesn’t require you to report a car accident to the police unless it results in death, injury, or property damage of more than $1,000. However, if you’re unable to locate the driver, it’s best to call the police and make a report. That covers you just in case the driver doesn’t get your note for some reason.
...If you’re the victim of a hit and run collision
If you’re on the road and you’re hit by another driver who flees the scene, try to quickly gather as much information as possible that could reveal the driver’s identity.
Pullover to a safe place out of traffic. Write down the license plate number and state, make and model of the vehicle, and even a description of the driver if possible. IF you’re able to take a photo of the vehicle, that’s another good piece of information.
Even if the driver is uncooperative, if you’re able to quickly photograph or write down the license plate number, that will be tremendously helpful for identification. Law enforcement can quickly and accurately track a vehicle by its license plate.
Never try to pursue a fleeing vehicle.
If the person isn’t going to cooperate, let the police handle it. Call 911 and file an immediate report. You can also try to get the contact information for witnesses if any are available. If you’re in an area where there might be surveillance cameras, ask the nearby businesses or residences to preserve the video captured that day until the police have a chance to view it.
Some businesses only retain surveillance video for a short time, so if they aren’t aware that there’s a reason to keep it, it might be automatically deleted. For this reason, be sure to contact them right away.
Get a medical examination.
Depending on the type of accident, you might feel fine immediately afterward but then have symptoms that appear days or weeks later. An immediate medical exam will help you to prove that your injuries are related to the car accident.
If you discover that your parked car has been hit and the person didn’t leave a note, call the police to make a report. Law enforcement has ways of tracking down hit-and-run drivers. Similarly to a hit and run when you’re aware that it’s happening, getting contact information for witnesses or tracking down surveillance footage can be important.
Finally, notify your insurance company. Don’t wait to make your insurance claim. Some insurance policies have strict time limits for when you need to file a claim or notify them of an accident.
Contact a car accident lawyer.
If you were unable to identify or locate the driver, an experienced attorney can launch their own investigation into who the at-fault driver is and how to find them — that way you can recover compensation.
In hit-and-run cases resulting in severe injuries, this may be the only way to get full compensation for all of your injuries.
Experienced Michigan car accident lawyers know many strategies and tactics to track down a hit-and-run driver, which can help you to pursue your claim for compensation. Regardless, you’re not alone. Talking to a lawyer will help you understand how to navigate the legal system and reach the best possible outcome.