Is a hit and run covered by car insurance?

All the information you need to understand how car insurance operates when it comes to a hit-and-run accident.

A hit-and-run accident is the term given to a situation where a vehicle hits an object or person, and the driver leaves the scene without stopping and giving assistance, and without fulfilling their legal obligations.

A hit and run is an illegal act, even if it doesn’t involve another person. If you hit a parked car or any other type of property and then leave the scene, it is still a crime. You must at least stop and leave a note with your insurance and contact details.

If you hit a person then flee the scene, then it is a much more serious offence. If the person was struck hard enough that you would reasonably assume they were badly injured or even killed, then fleeing the scene is punishable by up to 10 years in prison in New South Wales.

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How car insurance covers hit-and-run accidents

Whether car insurance covers a hit and run naturally depends on whether you are the culprit or the victim, and the situation.

If you commit a hit and run

If you are to blame, you won’t be able to claim from your car insurance. By driving away you turn an accident into a crime, which your insurance won’t cover.

If your car is damaged in a hit and run

If you go out and find your car has been sideswiped, it’s possible you will be covered. You generally need to have comprehensive cover to successfully make a claim. This covers damage to your car from a wide range of sources, including other drivers and car accidents.

However, you could be found “at fault” for the accident, and need to pay an excess to make your claim. In order to be found “not at fault”, you generally need to be able to indicate who caused the damage, and provide details of their registration and address. Naturally this is difficult to do if that person drove away after hitting your car.

One alternative is to avoid making a claim, and instead pursue the culprit through legal means. If they can be tracked down, they may be legally ordered to pay compensation for the damages. Even if you decide to go down this path, you should still let your insurer know what happened.

In short, if you can’t track down the driver who was at fault, then your only likely options are going to be one of the following:

  1. You pay for the repairs yourself.
  2. You make a claim on your comprehensive car insurance and pay any applicable excess. This option could also result in your premiums being increased.

If with the help of the police you are able track down the guilty driver, then you can opt for one of the following options:

  1. Make a claim on your car insurance. In this instance, you may not have to pay any excess or be hit with increased premiums.
  2. Recover the cost of repairs from the other driver and avoid making a car insurance claim.

Did you know?

Under what circumstances will my basic third-party car insurance cover a hit and run?

More basic third party liability insurance typically won’t cover damage to your car from a hit and run, except in one very specific situation:

  • Your third-party cover has an “uninsured driver extension”. This is a fairly common feature of third-party car insurance. It offers a limited level of cover, such as $3,000, for damage caused to your car by a driver who doesn’t have their own third-party liability insurance, and
  • the driver who struck your car does not have third-party liability insurance, and
  • the culprit driver was later tracked down and found to be at fault for the accident.

Such a situation is pretty unlikely to occur.

Note: This guide is intended to provide an overview of available options only. It is not advocating any particular course of action, it is not a substitute for legal advice and is not necessarily accurate for all insurers.

What can I do if my property is damaged in a hit and run?

A crime has been committed so you should call the police. This is also your best bet for identifying the culprit. As property damage is not generally an emergency, it’s best to call 131 444, which is the non-emergency number for the police.

What should I do if my car is hit while parked?

You should try to determine the extent of the damage, and document the incident as soon as possible by doing the following:

  • Note in writing the time at which you discovered the damage.
  • Note in writing any other details that may be relevant, such as whether you heard a loud crash in the night and what time it may have been.
  • Take photos of the damage, both close up and further away. You want to clearly capture the extent and type of damage. Imagine asking a mechanic to give you a quote based on those photos alone; that’s the kind of detail you need.

Ideally try not to drive anywhere else that day. If you do, make sure all the damage is well documented before you drive off.

If you do drive your car and it handles strangely, or it seems there may be more than just a cosmetic problem, then park it somewhere safe as soon as reasonably possible. Driving your car after it has been hit could increase any damage caused by the initial accident. Any subsequent damage from driving the car won’t be covered by insurance and may invalidate your claim.

What is considered a hit and run?

An accident turns into a hit and run the moment someone drives away without leaving their details.

What happens if I am the culprit in a hit and run on a parked car?

You should contact a legal professional for advice.

What initially appeared to be a “hit and run” might actually be an “accident” on closer inspection. For example, if someone thought their car was damaged in a hit and run, but on closer inspection they found a note that was left by the driver responsible for it.

A good outcome would be if both you and the person whose car you hit passing the situation off your insurers.

Should I make a claim?

There are some pros and cons when it comes to making a claim for car damaged caused by a hit and run.

You should probably hold off from making a claim in these circumstances:

  • The damage is purely cosmetic and not worth the cost of repair.
  • You don’t want to pay the car insurance excess.
  • You don’t want to run the risk of rising premiums.

Reasons to make a claim include the following:

  • The damage might get worse if it’s not repaired.
  • Eventually you’ll miss your chance. Claims for subsequent damage are unlikely to cover repairs from the hit and run.
  • That’s what car insurance is for, and it’s cheaper than paying for repairs out of your pocket.

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Andrew Munro

Andrew writes for finder.com, comparing products, writing guides and looking for new ways to help people make smart decisions. He's a fan of insurance, business news and cryptocurrency.

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