Hit and Run Accidents and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

In the past week, two people have been struck and killed in separate hit-and-run crashes. On Sunday night, Joseph Auffenburg, 50-years old, was struck in the northbound lanes of North Kirkwood Road in Kirkwood. Then on Wednesday morning, Roy Joseph, age 41, was discovered lying in a snow bank in the westbound lanes of Olive near River Valley Drive, the obvious victim of a hit-and-run. Police are continuing to search for clues in both deaths and are asking for the public’s help in reporting any information that could lead to the identities of the criminally-responsible drivers.

Hit-and-run fatalities have got to be among the most agonizing type of case that I handle. For family and friends of the injured or deceased, the notion that anyone could be so pathologically callous as to not stop, to not check to determine the condition, to not attempt to get what possibly could be lifesaving help—is unbearable. The grief of having a loved one taken so unexpectedly and in such a brutal and senseless manner is compounded and fueled by well-founded anger. The problem, though, is that there is no face at which to direct the rage; and as such, closure—the ability to resolve grief and eventually move on while never forgetting the person—is far more difficult to achieve.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

When a hit-and-run driver cannot be identified, issues frequently arise about how to handle insurance matters. Family members may assume that they cannot seek compensation for the death or injuries of a loved one unless they know who is responsible. This is not entirely accurate. Frequently, it is possible to recover for losses incurred in a hit-and-run crash through coverage under uninsured motorist benefits provided under the victim’s own policy. If a hit-and-run driver cannot be identified, he/she is deemed a “phantom driver”, and the injured party (or the victim’s family) can collect under his/her own policy. If the at-fault driver can be identified or is killed and had no insurance, then it is also possible to seek recovery under the victim’s policy.

All automobile insurance policies in Missouri are required to carry a minimum of $25,000 per person in uninsured motorist coverage. Benefits under most uninsured motorist provisions not only extend to the policyholder, but typically to his/her family members and passengers in the insured vehicle as well. Furthermore, uninsured motorist coverage under many plans will cover for vehicular-caused bicycle, pedestrian or bystander accidents as long as the driver of the car is uninsured.

“Stacking” Benefits

Missouri law allows an accident victim (or his/her family members, passengers, etc.) to “stack” benefits accrued under each of the policies that he/she carries. Let me explain: if a victim has several vehicles, each of which has its own policy and uninsured motorist coverage, it is possible to submit a claim to the insurance company using the coverage provided under all of these policies. If, for example, a victim has $25,000/person coverage for each of his/her two vehicles, he/she may be entitled to recover $50,000 in losses by combining or “stacking” the benefits under both plans.

Insurance Companies Cannot Raise Premiums if Claimant is Not Responsible

Frequently, clients will tell me they do not want to submit claims for losses under their own policy because they fear the insurance company will raise their premiums. This is not true. It is against the law in Missouri for insurance companies to raise premiums in cases where the claimant is not responsible for having caused the crash.

Consult with a Top Trial Lawyer Experienced in Recovering Losses for Hit-and-Run Crashes

While I pray that you and or your loved ones will never need to consult with us because of a hit-and-run crash, our top trial lawyers are here if you do. We have years of experience in recovering the compensation that you need and deserve for the unfathomable pain and suffering that you have incurred. Leaving the scene of an accident is a terrible crime. We will use all of our available legal resources to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to identify and bring to justice the driver who is criminally responsible for your  losses. Call us at 314-409-7060 or 855-40-CRASH (toll free).

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Reach out to Chris Dixon for personal injury, workers compensation, product liability, and other legal services for experienced, reliable counsel and representation in St. Louis.

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