The Danger of Phantom Drivers
While you may expect a “phantom driver” to pop up in a bad horror movie, these negligent drivers are all too real. Phantom driver accidents, otherwise known as miss-and-runs or hit-and-runs, happen when one driver causes an accident and flees before exchanging proper information, thus making their identity a mystery, like a phantom. They may do this by neglecting to wait for their right of way, taking a turn too quickly, or swerving into a different lane, forcing other drivers to take evasive maneuvers to avoid them. This can include swerving into other traffic or off of the road. Both hit-and-runs and miss-and-runs are dangerous. Unfortunately, they are not treated equally under Texas insurance laws.
Miss-and-Runs vs Hit-and-Runs
The key difference between a miss-and-run and a hit-and-run is the fact that the at-fault driver in the hit-and-run actually collided with another driver. This leaves little interpretation when they flee the scene of the accident, as they would have clearly known that they were the cause of the accident. In contrast, a driver in a miss-and-run may not realize they caused an accident and speed off. However, that does not mean they are free of fault.
When someone causes an accident, whether there was direct contact between cars or not, they are still legally required to stay behind and give their contact information as well as offer assistance if someone was catastrophically injured. Collisions between cars and fixed objects, like a tree or guardrail, can be just as devastating as collisions between two vehicles. Any car accident, especially one at high speeds, can leave victims with injuries like brain damage, broken bones, internal bleeding, and even spinal cord fractures and breaks. There is never an excuse for fleeing the scene of an accident, even if there was no contact between the vehicles themselves.
Helping the Police
After a catastrophic hit-and-run or miss-and-run collision, you should immediately call for medical assistance. Once your injuries have been attended to, you can file a report with the police. As miss-and-runs are just as illegal as hit-and-runs, the officers will likely have a vested interest in finding the culprit. If they do find the person responsible, then you will have the opportunity to file a claim against them and recover compensation, so working with the police is in your best interest. Helpful information that you may be able to supply includes:
- The license plate number (even just a partial is helpful)
- The make and model of the car
- The color of the car
- Any distinguishing features such as dents or scratches
- Where and when the accident took place
- What direction the vehicle was traveling in
- What the driver looked like
This information can be difficult to remember, so do your best to record it somehow soon after the accident happens. However, it is understandable if you are not able to fully remember every detail. This kind of accident is incredibly traumatic, especially if you suffer a head injury. Simply give what information you can and allow the officers to take over the investigation from that point.
How to Recover Damages
Of course, it is possible that the police will not be able to find the culprit. Miss-and-runs leave behind little physical evidence, such as paint chips and scratches, so it can be difficult to find the at-fault driver. Even if hit-and-runs are a little easier to track down due to the fact that you will have more available evidence, that doesn’t mean identifying a runaway driver is easy. If the driver is not found, then you must consider your other options, such as filing a claim with your own insurance provider.
It is common to file for coverage with your own insurance after being involved in a hit-and-run accident. After all, that is why you pay for insurance, isn’t it? Sadly, while in some states miss-and-runs are covered under uninsured motorist (UM) policies, in Texas they are not. This is due to the “actual contact” rule that most Texan insurers work by. As in, there must be contact between you and the at-fault vehicles, resulting in damage to your car. This means that if you find yourself the victim of a miss-and-run, your options may be extremely limited. However, if your accident did involve contact, then your UM policy may just save the day.
A UM policy means if the at-fault driver is uninsured, or if you do not have the identity of the at-fault driver, then you can still recover some compensation through your own insurance policy. The amount you can recover will match your policy, which is often the same as your own auto insurance limits. Texas law requires that drivers have at least:
- $30,000 in injury liability per person
- $60,000 in injury liability per accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability per accident
That being said, getting that compensation can still be difficult. Again, phantom drivers leave little evidence behind, even when they do strike your vehicle. This can make it easy for your insurance provider to deny your claim. While insurance companies should pay out what is fair to their clients, they rarely do. Settlements hurt insurance companies’ bottom lines, and they will often try to pay as little as possible to protect their profits.
When you file a claim following a hit-and-run collision, you will evidence can include:
- A police report that states that an accident took place
- Medical records that confirm your injuries
- Witness statements confirming another driver caused your injuries
- Photos of the accident scene and damage to your vehicle
- Security footage from nearby buildings
- Cam footage from your car
Gathering this kind of evidence on your own can be difficult, especially if you have been severely injured. That is why you need to work with a skilled Dallas car accident lawyer who can do the heavy lifting for you. We at The Lenahan Law Firm focus solely on helping people suffering from severe injuries. This means that we have the freedom to give our clients the time and attention they really need. Few other firms can say the same. If you have been catastrophically injured by a phantom driver, and we sound like the right law firm for you, call us at (214) 295-1008 to schedule a free consultation.