So I'm the victim of a hit and run... now what?
July 13, 2006 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Advice on filing an accident report where I'm not at fault, but was in a situation that commonly defines me as being at fault? (Chicago, IL if that matters, oh and the vehicle who hit me left the scene)

I already spoke to a police officer. I was not written a ticket, but he said even though he believes it was not my fault, the insurance company will, because I had recently pulled out of a parking space. The officer wrote some things down and then handed me a report to file out that has a diagram, etc. I do not know if this is the only documentation that exists, or if he has filled out and kept any sort of report on his own from my verbal description. That's one important question I'd like answered. I have no reason to lie here at all, but if he has kept his own description, how do I know if he took it down accurately or if it will not match what I report in some minor detail? I was certainly under duress as I was verbalizing what happened.

Here's what happened:

Fullerton Avenue is a 2-way street with 2 lanes on each side, and 1 "lane" of parking. I had pulled into the "parking" lane, and thought it conspicuous that nobody was parked where I was, so I thought maybe I shouldn't park there. I turned on my left turn signal to move back into traffic, but remained stopped because there was traffic. I saw a sizeable safe window in the right lane, and pulled back into the right lane of traffic. I proceeded for probably 100 feet or so before a minivan who was in the left lane of traffic executed a lane change into the right lane, and struck the front of my car. The minivan left the scene of the accident. I tried to get his/her plate, but am not 100% sure I got it right, as 1's and 7's are hard to tell apart on our Illinois license plates.

The officer says that he believes I was likely not at fault here (signal on, in right lane for at least some distance already rather than hit while changing lanes, minivan was in left lane at first, and left the scene, too). However, he believes my insurance company will say I am.

Interestingly, I spoke to my insurance company, and so far they have said I am "0% at fault" and have opened a claim. They want me to get an estimate. They have not asked for a police report or anything yet. I was under duress when describing the incident, and I'm pretty sure I did say that I was parked the first time, but they did not request to record my call until I called a second time, at which point I said "I was in the right lane on fullerton, and he made a lane change from left to right and hit the front of my car, then left the scene" -- this is a 100% true statement. I was already entirely in the lane for a short time.

My concern:

If the officer wrote down that I was parked beforehand, which is true but honestly not very relevant since I had already been in the right lane for a bit and this guy was changing from left lane to right lane, can my insurance company change their assessment? They've already said they're recording it as a "0% liability".

My insurance company (Progressive) wants me to have an estimate done by one of their partner body shops, which seems to me to be in my best interest because they will want to pick a body shop who doesn't rip them off. Is this a dumb thought? I have only consented to an estimate at this point, and not repairs (which they wanted me to consent to but I said I'd like to wait).

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks...
posted by twiggy to Law & Government (12 answers total)
I would think a hit-and-run is essentially a de facto admission of fault, but IANAL.
posted by JMOZ at 8:06 AM on July 13, 2006

It sounds to me like you were in a lane that was, for the immediate future, empty. I'm unclear from your description, is it a four lane street PLUS the parking "lane," or is it four lanes total with one lane on each side acting as a parking lane during part of the day? If it's the former, it sounds like you were traveling in an actual lane and someone cut you off.

Actually, that's the case either way -- unless you were hugging the curb in something that was obviously not a driving lane, you were proceeding legally and got cut off. Whether you were previously parked does not at all matter. You were driving in the right lane, someone else decided to switch to that lane (validating the fact that it is, in fact, a lane) and they clipped your car.

They likely have a list of partner body shops. I'd check around with friends to see if they've been to any of them and have feedback. The claim service is easier if you use one of their shops, but if you have somewhere you prefer it's likely that it'd be approved if they submit an estimate that's close to one of the partners' claims.
posted by mikeh at 8:24 AM on July 13, 2006

Response by poster: mikeh: Correct, it is a 4 lane street PLUS the parking "lane" - 2 lanes of traffic on each side, and 1 parking lane. I was in the right driving lane when I was struck.
posted by twiggy at 8:29 AM on July 13, 2006

You know, they'll almost certainly track down the guy who hit you (and you can bet Progressive--if nobody else--will very much want to find him), since, even if you don't have the plate number exactly right, there can't be too many vans of a certain description with plate numbers approximately like what you told them AND damage that matches what you would expect from such an accident. And then they'll have somebody else to go after for damages, and the situation will be less complicated for you.

Meanwhile, the advantage of using a partner shop is that they won't have to send their own guy out to confirm the estimate, which will reduce the amount of time it takes to get your car fixed and damages paid for.
posted by dseaton at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2006

ah. what is it about fullerton that makes it likely for people to drive off after accidents? the same thing happened to me there a few years ago.

i'm guessing that progressive will make an effort to track down the other person, but not try too hard. it's probably easiest and cheapest for them to pay for your repair and be done with it.

from your description, you were not at fault. seems pretty clear cut to me. the only reason parking might be an issue is if the accident happened while you were leaving the space--not 100 ' later. also, if this happened during rush hour, there might be some parking restrictions on fullerton for that.

i was rear ended by someone with no insurance, and my geico insurance handled it just fine. since it was my own insurance company, i felt i had a bit of an obligation to work with their preferred shop--which generally did fine. on that end, i strongly recommend that you make sure the car is exactly how you want it before accepting it. it took this fine place 2 tries before i accepted the car--they missed some damage associated with my tailpipe going into the maifold. since i had a problem with this in the past, i made it a point to stop by and test drive the car *before* i arranged a ride to retake posession.

oh, and geico didn't even raise my rates.
posted by lester at 9:11 AM on July 13, 2006

oh, and that form: just fill it out as accurately as you can and send it in. don't worry if the cop's story doesn't match. in many yers of illinois driving, i have never heard anything back about this form. maybe someone else has?
posted by lester at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2006

But remember that what is in the *insurance carrier's* best interests WRT repairing your collision damage is not necessarily in *your* best interest; I'd take advice.
posted by baylink at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2006

I checked into the forms recently, as I was hit by another driver the week I moved to Illinois. The law officer does, indeed, file his own incident report with the state -- so yours will not be the only one on file. If he said that he personally believes that you were not at fault, he almost certainly wrote his report up in a manner to match.

A hit and run is, essentially, a de facto admission of guilt. I would fill out the motorist reporting form in essentially the way you have here. Contact your insurance company, as noted above, and ask for a list of partner repair shops. Circulate that list amongst local acquaintances, and see if any offer a reccomendation.

I'm not sure about Illinois, but in most states I've lived in, a hit and run is covered under either your comprehensive or uninsured motorist policy, so this being covered shouldn't be a big issue, as long as you have both of those. The largest thing I would worry about would be your insurance rates -- and how that is handled is dependant very much upon Progressive's own policies, I would imagine.

You may wish to write to the state (the address should be on your reporting form) and request a copy of your file, so that you can have the officer's report. It may come in handy if it comes to arguing about responsibility with your insurance agency.

IANAL, etc, etc, but I've been in an accident in Illinois, and in a hit-and-run, though not both at once, and have gotten away without an insurance hike or license points in either case.
posted by jammer at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2006

I am most concerned by your statements (twice) that you were under duress. What do you mean by that?
posted by MeetMegan at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2006

Response by poster: MeetMegan: I was nervous and scared because I was just in a hit and run accident, so I don't think I spoke slowly and in a clear thought out manner in describing the accident, and probably gave the officer an incomplete picture of what happened.
posted by twiggy at 5:11 PM on July 13, 2006

Ok. Got it. As a legal term, duress generally means illegal coercion. I was concerned that somehow the police officer was forcing you to say things you didn't mean.
posted by MeetMegan at 6:47 PM on July 13, 2006

Interestingly, I spoke to my insurance company

Your call was almost certainly recorded. That's pretty much the beginning and end of your part of this transaction, never mind what the cop does or says.

Now the insurance company will reimburse you. Depending on what state you live in, your premium will probably rise.

Finish filing the police report, get your car fixed, and forget about it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:56 PM on July 13, 2006

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