Unidentified Motorist Accidents
What happens if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and the at-fault driver fails to remain at the scene and cannot be identified and located? Fortunately, there is insurance coverage in Ontario for individuals involved in a motor vehicle accident with an unidentified motorist and vehicle.
You can make an insurance claim even if the at-fault driver is unknown.
Motor vehicle liability insurance in Ontario covers accidents in which the at-fault person is either unidentifiable or uninsured. This insurance is available to innocent victims of these kinds of accidents.
Section 265 (1) (a) of the Ontario Insurance Act sets out the insurance available in every motor vehicle liability insurance policy. This includes payment of the following amounts:
(a) When a person insured under the contract is legally entitled to recover from the owner or driver of an uninsured automobile or unidentified automobile as damages for bodily injuries resulting from an accident involving an automobile;
(b) When any person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or driver of an uninsured automobile or unidentified automobile as damages for bodily injury to or the death of a person insured under the contract resulting from an accident involving an automobile; and
(c) When any person insured under the contract is legally entitled to recover from the identified owner or driver of an uninsured automobile as damages for accidental damage to the insured automobile or its contents, or to both the insured automobile and its contents, resulting from an accident involving an automobile.
In such cases, the innocent victim makes a claim against any other at-fault-driver. If there is no other at-fault driver, they make a claim against their own insurance company.
Before making a claim against your own insurance company, you must make reasonable efforts to find who was at fault, even if the identity of the other driver is unknown. This includes: getting details at the scene of the accident, such as the names and contact information of any witnesses who saw what happened and may be able to help to identify the unknown driver, reporting the accident to the appropriate police force, and then cooperating in any police investigation.
If the driver is identified, then it is necessary to determine whether they have insurance or if no other policy of insurance is available to respond to the claim.
There are limits to the coverage available when the at-fault driver is unidentifiable.
The Ontario Insurance Act requires all drivers to be covered by a standard insurance policy, which includes coverage for accidents caused by unknown drivers. However, there may be a limit to how much compensation can be claimed in such a case. The standard amount recoverable is only $200,000. You can increase the amount available in the event of an accident with an unidentified driver by buying a Family Protection Endorsement. This allows you to claim damages up to the third-party liability limit in your own policy. Most policies have limits of $1 million. You can increase your limits substantially for a very little additional premium. You should discuss increasing your limits with your insurance broker or agent.
Time limits apply for making a claim to your own insurance based on an accident with an unidentified motorist and vehicle. If you are involved in an accident where the at-fault driver is unknown, then you need to consult a lawyer as soon as possible.