Insurance Industry Runs Away From "Hit & Run" Coverage
Truth in Auto Insurance provision would restore common sense to "hit & run" insurance policies
What would you do if someone was driving directly at your car while in the wrong lane? Common sense tells drivers to take evasive action to avoid the accident. Do whatever you have to do to protect your family.
“For too many drivers, the automobile insurance industry spends all its efforts to figure out how to avoid honoring the insurance that we pay,” said Mark Thomson, President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice. “If someone runs you off the road and leaves the scene, you should be able to use the uninsured motorist coverage that you pay for if you or your property are damaged.”
In Wisconsin, people are being denied the uninsured motorist coverage that they purchased to protect their family in the event a car forces them off the road, but doesn’t “hit” them.
The Wisconsin Association for Justice is highlighting the need for the Truth in Auto Insurance provisions contained in the state budget by providing real stories from Wisconsin drivers who have suffered because of a series of little known provisions written into law at the request of the automobile insurance lobby in 1995.
On December 6, 2000, Wendy DeHart was driving her car on a two lane road. An unidentified vehicle traveling in the opposite direction crossed the center line and hit the car in front of Ms. DeHart. The unidentified vehicle continued to come directly at her, causing the car in front of her to take evasive action and pull off the road. As the car came toward Wendy, she was fortunately able to avoid a head on collision, but lost control of her vehicle and went off the road. The other driver fled the scene and was never found by the police.
As a result of being forced off the road, Ms. Dehart was injured and incurred substantial medical expenses. Witnesses confirmed that Ms. DeHart’s accident and injuries were caused by the negligent driver who left the scene.
Ms. DeHart filed an insurance claim under her own policy for accident with an uninsured motorist. Under state law, an unidentified motorist involved in a hit and run accident is included in the definition of an “uninsured” motor vehicle.
Ms. DeHart’s insurance company denied the claim, saying that they didn’t have to honor her policy because the unidentified motorist failed to actually “hit” her vehicle.
She appealed the insurance company’s decision all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which decided that because the unidentified driver did not actually “hit” her vehicle, Ms. DeHart’s insurance company did not have to honor her policy.
In effect, people like Ms. DeHart are punished for having the awareness and ability to avoid a head on collision. And although witnesses confirmed that the other driver would have hit her head on, she is unable to have a jury decide whether or not she did the right thing.
Instead, the automobile insurance industry removed common sense from the equation and denied Ms. DeHart the insurance that she bought and paid for to protect herself in the event of such an accident. Had Ms. Dehart not tried to avoid the accident, the policy she paid for would have been honored. By doing the right thing to avoid a head on collision, Ms. Dehart is saddled with significant medical and automobile repair costs.
“Clearly, people like Wendy DeHart should be commended, not punished for doing the right thing and avoiding a head on collision,” Thomsen added. “The automobile insurance industry is the only group who believe that having a head on collision is better than avoiding the accident. In a situation like Wendy Dehart, common sense should prevail.”
For more information on the Truth in Auto Insurance provisions visit www.wisjustice.org
For more details on this particular tragedy, contact the Wisconsin Association for Justice.