Being injured in a hit-and-run accident can be a jarring experience. Not only are you suddenly forced to deal with the consequences of someone else’s mistake, but you are also confronted with the sobering reality that some people just aren’t very good people.
As the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Alaska, you have the same basic legal rights as anyone else who has been injured in a vehicle collision. This includes the right to seek just compensation for the financial and non-financial costs of your injuries. However, you are obviously facing some additional challenges, and in order to protect your legal rights you will need to work with an experienced personal injury attorney.
As the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident in Alaska, You Have the Following Legal Rights
1. The Right to Conduct Your Own Investigation
While you can – and should – call the police after being involved in a hit-and-run accident, you have the right to conduct your own investigation as well. Your personal injury lawyer will be able to hire an investigator to gather as much evidence as possible in order to try to identify the hit-and-run driver. Depending on when and where the accident occurred, forensic evidence, witnesses, surveillance camera footage, and various other forms of evidence may all be available to help identify the individual who is responsible for your losses.
2. The Right to File a Med Pay Claim
If you have medical payments coverage (“Med Pay”) under your auto insurance policy, you have the right to file a Med Pay claim after being injured in a hit-and-run accident. Med Pay provides no-fault coverage for your medical expenses up to your policy limit (similar to personal injury protection (PIP) insurance in other states), and you are entitled to Med Pay coverage regardless of whether you are eventually able to file a fault-based claim with the hit-and-run driver’s insurer.
3. The Right to Rely on Your Health Insurance
After being injured in a hit-and-run accident, you are entitled to health insurance coverage just the same as if you were seeking medical treatment for any other type of injury. Your health insurer might eventually be able to recoup its payments from your (or the other driver’s) insurance company, but you can rely on your health insurance for the time being so that you can seek immediate treatment for your accident-related injuries.
4. The Right to File a Fault-Based Claim with the Other Driver’s Insurer
Of course, if the police or your private investigator is able to identify the hit-and-run driver, then you can file a fault-based claim with his or her insurance company. By law, all drivers in Alaska are required to carry minimum auto liability insurance coverage of:
- Bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance with limits of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident, and
- Property damage coverage of $25,000 per accident.
What if the other driver fled the scene of the accident because he or she was uninsured? In this scenario, your options are likely to either (i) file a lawsuit against the driver directly, or (ii) file a claim for uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.
5. The Right to File a Claim Under Your Own Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Policy
If you have UIM coverage, you can also use this policy to seek coverage if it is not possible to identify the hit-and-run driver. For UIM insurance purposes, hit-and-run accidents are treated similarly to accidents involving uninsured drivers.
UIM insurance is similar to Med Pay coverage in that it is optional in Alaska; however, it is different in that it provides coverage for all financial and non-financial losses resulting from hit-and-run accidents (as opposed to just medical expenses). UIM policy limits are also typically much higher. However, in order to file a successful UIM claim, you will need to prove that the hit-and-run driver was at fault in the collision, and to do this you will need an experienced personal injury attorney.
6. The Right to “Stack” Your UIM Coverage
Another unique aspect of UIM coverage is that it affords the opportunity for “stacking.” If you have UIM coverage under more than one policy, you can add up (or “stack”) your UIM policy limits in order to increase the available coverage for a single claim.
7. The Right to File Appropriate Third-Party Claims
In certain cases, it will also be possible to recover financial compensation by filing a “third-party claim” against someone other than the hit-and-run driver. For example, if poor road construction or inadequate road maintenance was a factor, you could have a claim against the government agency or contractor that was responsible for building or maintaining the road. There are various other potential third-party claims as well, and your personal injury attorney will be able to identify all grounds for seeking just compensation.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident in Alaska
As with all types of car, truck, and SUV accidents, there are several steps you should try to take after being injured in a hit-and-run accident in Alaska. These steps include:
- Seek Medical Attention–Go to the hospital, your doctor’s office, or an urgent care center to seek medical attention for your injuries.
- Take Notes – After a hit-and-run accident, it is especially important to write down as many details as you can remember as soon as possible.
- Report the Accident – If you did not call 911 from the scene, call the local police department’s non-emergency number to report the accident.
- Contact Your Insurance Company – Start the claims process with your insurance company, but be careful not to provide any more information than is necessary to file your claim.
- Call a Local Personal Injury Lawyer – The sooner you contact a local personal injury lawyer, the sooner your lawyer can open an investigation and begin seeking just compensation on your behalf.