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vishpool via Flickr -- https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/68bcfb16-8977-462d-820f-b51847e46ab8Hit-and-run drivers caused 2,049 deaths across the United States during 2016. That terrible toll rose 60 percent from the still-too-high one recorded for 2006.

These numbers come from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which also noted that 65 percent of the people who died after being struck by drivers who fled the scene were pedestrians or bike riders. The deadly collisions occurred when the at-fault drivers failed to yield at crosswalks, sped recklessly on residential roads, ran red light and stop signs, became distracted behind the wheel, left the roadway and drove while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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The carnage continued into 2017, when the Virginia Department of Transportation recorded 4,521 hit-and-run collisions. VDOT does not break out the numbers explicitly, but a significant percentage of those hit-and-runs surely accounted for the 114 pedestrian deaths and 1,571 pedestrian injuries on state roads and highways during 2017.

Laws in every state, of course, make it a felony to flee the scene of an accident in which a person suffers injuries or dies. Drivers break those laws with alarming frequency, primarily because they lack insurance coverage or fear being arrested for some other offense — often both.

As Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorneys, my law firm colleagues and I are committed to ensuring the pedestrians who fall victim to hit-and-run drivers do not have to take on the financial consequences of a driver’s illegal actions. We have help in this from a Virginia law that requires all car insurance policies issued in the state to include uninsured motorist coverage provisions.

Those provisions allow injured pedestrians or the family members of deceased pedestrians to file claims with their own policies when the at-fault driver cannot be identified or is found but does not have insurance. This is not to say, however, that succeeding with an uninsured motorist claim is easy.

Insurance companies treat what are called UM claims just like they treat claims from third parties. Before settling a UM claim, insurers require evidence that the fleeing driver violated the pedestrian’s right of way, Medical evidence and police reports must also be provided. Sometimes, insurance companies even take pedestrians with UM claims to court to avoid paying out compensation for injuries and losses.

Since the roads are not getting any safer for pedestrians, holding insurers to their legal obligations to settle uninsured motorist claims is essential.

EJL

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