A basic automobile insurance policy in Ontario must include uninsured automobile coverage and statutory accident benefits, both of which can provide compensation for losses suffered by victims of a hit-and-run accident (unidentified driver incident). An unidentified driver accident involves damage or injuries caused by an at-fault vehicle while your car was parked as well as accidents involving a negligent driver who flees the scene after striking you or your vehicle.
Statutory Accident Benefits
If you sustained injuries and are covered by an automobile insurance policy – whether as a pedestrian, cyclist or motorist - you may claim statutory accident benefits (SABs) from your own insurance company. Passengers who don’t have vehicle insurance and were hurt in a vehicle struck by an unidentified driver can make a claim for accident benefits against their driver’s insurance. Children injured in a hit-and-run accident while cycling or walking are generally eligible to claim benefits under their parent’s vehicle insurance policy.
Uninsured Automobile Coverage
If you choose to file a civil lawsuit against your vehicle insurer to recover compensation for losses arising from a hit-and-run accident, you are eligible to a maximum of $200,000 in injury compensation with the ‘basic’ uninsured automobile coverage. Uninsured automobile coverage is intended to replace compensation for damages you would have claimed against a known at-fault driver. The $200,000 maximum must be shared between qualified accident victims if multiple persons were injured in the accident, and may be reduced by $25,000 if there are claims for property damage.
In the case of a hit-and-run accident, you are not covered for damage to your own vehicle unless you have collision coverage on the policy. In the latter case, although your insurance rates won’t be increased (since the accident was caused by an unidentified driver), you are responsible for paying the deductible.
An injured pedestrian or cyclist who is not covered under any vehicle insurance policy may claim accident compensation under Ontario's Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund (MVACF). MVCAF will pay up to a maximum of $200,000 in accident benefits.
If you increase the liability coverage on your vehicle insurance policy through the OPCF-44R endorsement, you and dependant relatives will have access to a higher maximum liability amount if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run (unidentified) driver accident. OPCF-44R Family Protection coverage can increase your liability coverage to as much as $2 Million.
Keep in mind, a claim for uninsured vehicle compensation must be made against your own insurance provider, so the onus is on you, the claimant, to provide evidence to support your claim that an unknown vehicle caused the accident and your injuries. For hit-and-run accidents, it is often more difficult to provide such evidence and without proof, there is a greater risk that the insurance company will deny you compensation. However, there are steps you can take in reporting the accident, and gathering and recording evidence, which can help corroborate the claim.
Important Steps following a Hit-and-Run Accident
Contact police within 24 hours and make an accident report. Getting police to the scene and reporting the details of the accident as quickly as possible will increase the chance of identifying and apprehending the negligent driver. Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offence and if the hit-and-run driver is identified, they will be charged with a traffic violation or criminal offence, and may face as much as 5 years in prison in the latter case. Also, finding the negligent driver is likely to help substantiate the claim.
If you or a passenger was seriously hurt in the accident, call for an ambulance immediately. If you sustained only minor injuries, you should still see a doctor as soon as you can because some injuries are not immediately apparent or worsen over time, and delaying medical care could result in a worse outcome.
If you witnessed the hit-and-run vehicle before it fled the, record any details you may have noticed to help identify the vehicle or driver (such as car model and colour, licence plate and/or description of the car occupants).
Take a photograph of the damage to your vehicle and, if applicable, to any property damage. It's also a good idea to get contact information and a description of what they saw from any witnesses who observed the incident or the at-fault vehicle. Finally, take note of any security cameras, homes or businesses that overlook the accident scene, and follow up to see if you can use the video evidence or if someone in the nearby buildings may have witnessed anything that will help your claim.
Promptly report the collision to your insurer. Insurance companies generally require that you inform them of your intention to make a claim, as well as the circumstances of the accident, within 7 days. Further, your insurance company will require a statement in writing within 30 days which includes additional details about your injury and losses, as well as a copy of the police report and any other evidence supporting your claim.
Remember that uninsured automobile coverage exists solely to pay for expenses and losses arising from injuries caused by an uninsured, unidentified or underinsured driver. If you were injured by a hit-and-run driver and incurred significant losses such as rehabilitation treatments and lost income, you are entitled to the be reimbursed accordingly.