Harsh penalties await drivers who cause hit and run Michigan car accidents; car crash victims can recover No-Fault PIP benefits
Hit and run Michigan car accidents are preventable and against the law.
They are also far too common.
In 2018, there were 34,628 hit and run Michigan car accidents, according to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. Hit and run crashes accounted for 11% of the total number of Michigan car crashes in 2018.
In cities such as Detroit, Pontiac and Flint, where it’s estimated that as many as 50 percent of drivers are driving cars uninsured, the number of hit and run accidents are even higher.
Here are 7 facts about hit and run Michigan car accidents that car accident victims and personal injury lawyers should know.
1: To avoid being accused of a hit and run Michigan accident, drivers must remain at the scene
If you have been involved in a car accident, then you must “immediately stop [your] vehicle at the scene of the accident” and you must “remain there” until you have accomplished the following:
- Provide your name and address, vehicle registration number (and the name and address of the vehicle’s owner, if it isn’t you) to the police, the “individual struck” or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which you collided. (MCL 257.617(1); 257.619(a))
- Show your driver’s license to the police, the “individual struck” or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which you collided. (MCL 257.617(1); 257.619(b))
- Help get medical aid for “any individual injured in the accident.” (MCL 257.617(1); 257.619(c))
The only exception to the “stop” and “remain” at the scene rule is when you have “a reasonable and honest belief that remaining at the accident scene will result in further harm.” Under those circumstances, you must “immediately report the accident to the nearest or most convenient police agency or officer” and provide the information described above. (MCL 257.617(1))
2: Causing fatal hit and run Michigan car accidents
A hit-and-run driver who has been involved in – and caused – a hit and run Michigan car accident that “results in the death of another individual” is guilty of a felony and can be sent to prison for up to 15 years and/or fined up to $10,000. (MCL 257.617(3))
3: Hit and run accidents resulting in serious impairment of a body function or death
A hit-and-run driver who has been involved in a hit and run Michigan car accident that “results in serious impairment of a body function or death” is guilty of a felony and can be sent to prison for up to 5 years and/or fined up to $5,000. (MCL 257.617(2))
4: Hit and run accidents resulting in personal injury
A hit-and-run driver who has been involved in a hit and run Michigan car accident that “results in injury to any individual” is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be sent to jail for up to 1 year and/or fined up to $1,000. (MCL 257.617a(1) and (2))
5: Hit and run accidents resulting in vehicle damage
A hit-and-run driver who has been involved in a hit and run Michigan car accident that “results in damage to a vehicle operated by or attended by any individual” is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be sent to jail for up to 90 days and/or fined up to $100. (MCL 257.618(1) and (2))
6: Victims of a hit and run accident can still collect Michigan No-Fault benefits
Even if a hit and run driver is never caught, an innocent victim who is injured in a hit and run Michigan car accident can generally still collect Michigan No-Fault PIP (personal injury protection) insurance benefits to cover accident-related medical expenses and lost wages.
The possible sources for those No-Fault benefits (as reflected by the new auto No-Fault law that took effect on June 11, 2019) are as follows:
- A victim’s own No-Fault auto insurance policy (in which the victim is the named insured).
- The No-Fault auto insurance policy of the victim’s spouse (in which the spouse is the named insured).
- The No-Fault auto insurance policy of a resident relative of the victim (in which the resident relative is the named insured).
- The Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (which is administered by the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility with whom an application for benefits must be filed) (Source: MCL 500.3114(1) and (4); 500.3115)
Importantly, the new auto No-Fault law that took effect June 11 also imposes two new restrictions on No-Fault insurance benefits for hit-and-run accident victims that were absent under Michigan’s previous auto law:
- After July 1, 2020, when the new No-Fault PIP medical benefits coverage levels become available, a victim’s No-Fault PIP medical benefits will be limited to whatever coverage levels were chosen in the policy under which the victim is claiming No-Fault benefits. (MCL 500.3107c(5)) For example, if a married hit-and-run victim doesn’t have his or her own auto insurance policy, but his or her spouse does, then the amount of auto No-Fault insurance benefits that the victim may collect will be limited to the coverage level in the spouse’s policy.
- There is a $250,000 cap on No-Fault PIP medical benefits collected through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan. (MCL 500.3172(7)(a))
The new No-Fault PIP medical benefits coverage levels – which were created by the new No-Fault law and will be available in the policies issued or renewed after July 1, 2020 – include: $50,000 (for drivers on Medicaid); $250,000; $500,000; or “no limit” (i.e., unlimited). (MCL 500.3107c(1))
7: Victims of hit and run Michigan car accidents can recover for their injuries and pain and suffering if they have ‘Uninsured Motorist’ Coverage
I write and speak often about the importance of having uninsured motorist coverage. As an auto accident attorney, it is one of the most important things that a person can have to protect himself and his family. In some cities, such as Detroit, where 50 percent of drivers are driving without insurance, that means that there is literally a one-in-two chance that even if you are completely innocent and seriously injured, you will get nothing for your injuries and pain and suffering after a car accident. I feel it is almost criminal when I hear that an insurance agent does not tell people about this or offer this important coverage to people buying insurance – especially if someone lives or works in Detroit where the odds of being involved in a hit and run car accident are so high.
If you are involved in a serious hit and run Michigan car accident and the other driver is uninsured and/or drives away without leaving information to identify the vehicle driver and/or owner, then uninsured motorist coverage is the ONLY way you will be able to recover financially for your injuries and your pain and suffering from being injured. Without it, you will recover nothing.
If the at-fault hit and run driver is never caught and identified, then the hit and run victim has no one to sue to recover compensation for the victim’s accident-related pain and suffering. The only option left for a hit and run victim to recover pain and suffering compensation is if the victim is covered by an uninsured motorist (UM) policy.
Because the law treats an unidentified at-fault hit and run driver effectively as an “uninsured motorist,” a UM policy (subject to its policy limit) would see to it that the hit and run victim receives the pain and suffering compensation that the hit and run driver would have been obligated to pay had he or she been apprehended and identified.
Statute of limitations for hit and run Michigan car accidents
Generally speaking, the statute of limitations in Michigan to sue in civil court for pain and suffering compensation arising from a car accident is 3 years. (MCL 600.5805(2))
However, the statute of limitations for bringing a criminal prosecution for a hit-and-run is within 6 years after the offense was committed. (MCL 767.24(10))