Slightly more than 15,000 vehicles were reported stolen in North Carolina during 2016. We can’t know for sure how many of those cars and trucks were then involved in crashes that left innocent victims injured and killed, but it is safe to assume that a significant number of the hundreds of serious hit-and-run collisions in the state involved stolen vehicles.
Stealing a car or truck and causing a hit-and-run crash are, of course, crimes. Police will work to find and prosecute the guilty driver. Holding the criminal financially liable for injuring or killing people is a separate matter.
- NC Hit & Run, Unknown Motorist Injury Cases: Underinsured Motorist (UM) Coverage Is Key
- A North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney Describes the Long-Lasting Trauma of Hit-and-Run Accidents
- How Fault Is Determined in a North Carolina Car Accident Case
The good news is that most licensed drivers and vehicle owners in North Carolina will have legal options for getting their crash-related medical bills covered. State law requires each car insurance policy sold in the state to provide uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage can be invoked after hit-and-run crashes, in cases when the at-fault driver cannot be clearly identified and in cases when no other insurance policy can be accessed.
Under law, a valid car insurance policy must provide minimum UM coverages of $30,000 for bodily injuries or loss of life and $25,000 for property damage. People can purchase as much as $1 million dollars of UM injury and death coverage,
Why to Invoke Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Even when the driver of a stolen vehicles has a valid car insurance policy, his or her insurance company will not pay off on personal injury or wrongful death claims. Each policy contains language explaining that it will not cover criminal acts.
Nor can the victim of a stolen vehicle driver file insurance claims against the vehicle’s rightful owner. Insurance does not apply to cars and trucks being operated without an owner’s permission.
These legal realities leave two options: A stolen vehicle crash victim can file a civil personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver and pursue uninsured motorist (UM) claims. If the driver is known, he or she is named as the defendant in the case. If the driver is unknown then “John Doe” is named.
Keep in mind that individuals — even the ones who don’t steal cars and trucks — rarely have access to the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars traffic accident victims require for medical expenses. Securing the uninsured motorist insurance settlement is much more likely to put a crash victim on the path to financial recovery.
During the uninsured motorist process, the victim’s own insurance company defends the at-fault driver as if it were the insurance company for that driver. Also, North Carolina insurance policies carry a provision allowing such a crash victim to demand arbitration rather than pursuing a civil lawsuit, so it makes sense to consult an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer in these circumstances for guidance.
The insurance company will demand all the same physical and medical evidence as it would if the claim came from someone it did not insure. Also, the insurance company will try to minimize payouts or avoid liability altogether.
You will find more information about how to pursue a UM claim by clicking the first two links under LEARN MORE.
Rick Shapiro has practiced personal injury law for over two decades in Virginia, North Carolina, and throughout the Southeastern United States. He is a Board Certified Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (ABA Accredited) and has litigated injury cases throughout the eastern United States, including wrongful death, trucking, faulty products, railroad and medical negligence claims. His success in and out of the court room is a big reason why he was named 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in railroad law in U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers publication (Norfolk, VA area), and he has been named a “Best Lawyer” and “Super Lawyer” by those peer reviewed organizations for many years.