Posted: March 11, 2021

   

It can happen to anyone.  A car hits you while you’re riding a bike, walking across the street or driving through an intersection, and the at fault driver takes off leaving you to deal with your injuries and damage.  Now you’re wondering what to do next and whether you can get any compensation to pay for your injuries and losses.

Hit and run accidents sometimes result in serious and life-changing injuries for accident victims and are, unfortunately, not rare events in Ontario.  In November of 2020, two serious pedestrian accidents in Kitchener were caused by hit-and-run drivers: one of these incidents occurred near Belmont Ave. and resulted in serious injuries to a 32-year-old man; while the second accident tragically caused the death of a 39-year-old man walking in the area of Highland Road and Ira Needles.

Hit and run drivers commonly flee the scene of an accident because they want to avoid financial liability or criminal charges, particularly if they are unlicensed or driving while impaired.  If you are involved in an accident caused by an unidentified driver, here are important steps to take to ensure that you fulfill your legal obligations and are able to make a claim for accident benefits, if you desire to do so.

Steps to take for victims of a hit-and-run accident

  1. Call 911 to get medical attention if anyone was hurt in the accident. 
  2. Remain at the scene and inform police that your accident was caused by an identified vehicle.  
  • Ontario law requires that police are notified if: 1) anyone was injured in an automobile accident; and/or 2) the combined vehicle/property damage exceeds $2000.
  • Insurance companies also generally require that you report the incident to police within 24 hours if your accident was caused by a hit-and-run driver and you are claiming accident benefits.
  • Finally, prompt reporting of the incident and description of the vehicle may aid police in tracking down the at fault driver.
  1. Report the incident to your insurance company and make a claim for statutory accident benefits if you suffered a loss due to an injury or vehicle damage.
  • Drivers can claim accident benefits against their own vehicle insurance policy regardless who was at fault, including accidents caused by an unidentified driver.
  • Injured passengers may claim benefits against their driver’s insurance policy.
  1. If you were hurt in a cycling accident or pedestrian accident involving a hit-and-run driver and you have no insurance, you may claim accident benefits under the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund (MVACF), which is an Ontario fund ‘of last resort’ that compensates persons who were injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred in this province.
  2. If you’re uncertain about your legal rights or your insurance company has denied your claim, get advice from a knowledgeable car accident lawyer.
  3. Get the names and contact information for witnesses and anyone else involved in the accident.

Sometimes, an insurance company will unfairly deny a legitimate claim for accident benefits arising from a hit-and-run accident.  In such a case, the accident victim may need legal assistance in order to force their insurer to pay owed benefits.  This is what occurred in the civil action, Anjum v. John Doe and State Farm, after a man suffered a head injury as well as a serious and permanent back injury in a Mississauga car accident caused by a hit and run driver.  An unidentified driver (defendant ‘John Doe’) cut off the plaintiff and caused him to lose control of the car and crash into a ditch on the eastbound ramp of Hwy 403 near the Mavis Road exit. 

In Anjum, State Farm asserted that the single-car accident was entirely caused by the plaintiff’s negligence; and the insurer sought a summary judgement motion to have the plaintiff’s claim dismissed, arguing that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused or contributed to by the negligence of a hit-and-run driver or, alternatively, that the circumstances of the case do not satisfy the requirements of the OPCF-44 Family Protection Endorsement for an ‘inadequately insured motorist’ on the vehicle insurance policy.  The car being driven by the plaintiff was owned by his adult son and insured by State Farm.

The plaintiff testified that just as he was nearing his desired exit off Highway 403, a car in front of him indicated that it was turning right but the driver of the car seemingly changed his mind and suddenly moved in front of his car.  In response, the plaintiff hit the brakes and moved to the left, but this caused him to lose control, swerve and finally land in the ditch.  Due to his head injury, the plaintiff doesn’t remember anything that occurred after the accident until he was in hospital and even then, his memory was compromised for some days after that.

A passenger in a car behind the plaintiff’s was on route from Oakville to Milton when she witnessed the accident; she immediately phoned 911 and an ambulance and police responded to the call. The witness, Ms. Rossi, gave an affidavit stating that she saw a car cut off the plaintiff’s vehicle, as stated in the plaintiff’s evidence.  The investigating officer who attended the scene also testified that her observations were consistent with the plaintiff’s narrative, including damage to the car, indicators of entry to the ditch and damage to the sign.

The judge in this case found Ms. Rossi’s evidence to be credible and reliable, and believed that her statements reinforced the plaintiff’s evidence.  Based on these testimonies, along with evidence given by an accident reconstruction expert, Justice Cavanagh concluded that there is enough evidence to indicate the involvement of an unidentified automobile and the evidence has satisfied the evidentiary requirements of the OPCF-44R Coverage endorsement.   Further, there is no evidence supporting the idea that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in causing the accident.  Therefore, Justice Cavanagh dismissed State Farm’s motion and found in favour of the plaintiff.

If you were injured by a hit and run driver or another negligent driving action, talk to a knowledgeable Kitchener-Waterloo car accident lawyer at Dietrich Law and allow us to fight for your legal right to fair compensation.

Posted in Car Accident and Personal Injury Law
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