Far too many Oregon motorists who have been injured in what are known as “phantom vehicle” accidents never get a dime from their insurance companies. Why? Because all too frequently, the insurance companies simply say, “Since you can’t prove that someone hit you and then sped away, we don’t have to pay!”
Let’s face it: if you’ve been run off the road by a brainless lane changer who then speeds happily away from the scene, it could be difficult if not impossible to give the make and model of the at-fault driver’s car, never mind the license number. This is particularly true if you’ve been bumped off the road at night.
Portland car accident attorneys have seen this denial of claims all too often, so now they are passing along information about what you must do if you’re involved in a phantom car accident if you want to prevail over the insurance company. The exact same rules apply for any uninsured motorist (UIM) claim.
No evidence of a collision with another car?
If someone causes you to lose control of your car by swerving in front of you or even bumping you, and this causes you to lose control of your car and crash, unless you can show absolute evidence of a collision with another vehicle, the insurance company will more than likely deny your claim. Therefore, you need a witness.
The problem with that notion is that anyone who saw the person bump you or cut you off was almost undoubtedly traveling behind you, so they won’t have any more information than you, so what can you do? In addition, if the bump that caused you to lose control was relatively minor compared with the severe damage caused after you lost control, an unsympathetic insurance adjuster is likely to deny your claim, saying they can find no evidence of any initial impact.
Using UIM Insurance Coverage
The first thing you should consider doing is speaking with a very good and highly experienced personal injury attorney. They have seen this kind of insurance industry denial of claims many times, and they also know how to fight on behalf of the injured victims.
Good attorneys will know which experts are most likely to find evidence of that initial collision that the insurance company adjuster “accidentally” missed. It might be a shiny mark on your bumper, or millimeters-wide indentations on a panel, but the right expert will be able to testify as to that damage having been caused very recently, helping to substantiate your claim.
Once a collision has been established, your claim moves from being a phantom vehicle claim to a hit and run claim. The expert testimony will establish proof of the initial collision, and your case should be straightforward after that.
What if I can’t prove the initial collision happened?
Without proof of that initial bump, things do become more difficult. However, state statutes that insurance companies aren’t quick to share with their clients offer some options, including:
- Testimony from a disinterested person that they saw the phantom car cause the accident
- Reporting the phantom car accident to an appropriate law enforcement agency. This must be done within 24 hours of the accident taking place!
- Informing the UIM motorist insurer of the claim “within a reasonable time.” Personal injury attorneys say this should be done within 72 hours of the accident.
- Obtaining other corroborating evidence from competent sources. This is a fairly broad provision and one which gives plenty of scope for victims of phantom car accidents to actually triumph over unwilling insurance companies.
The 6 steps to succeeding with your Phantom Vehicle Claim
The following methods of proof in UIM claims have all been accepted in actual court cases, so try to remember as many as you can if, heaven forbid, you are ever involved in a phantom vehicle accident.
- Motorists who have witnessed an accident oftentimes stop, sometimes to see if they can help and other times out of curiosity. Ask anyone who stops if they saw the phantom car and get their name and contact details.
- The very first time you talk to a paramedic, your doctor, or to the staff in the emergency room, it’s imperative that you tell them about the phantom car. The more people that know and the more you tell, the better.
- Tell the policeman both at the scene and then when you first officially report the accident exactly how the phantom vehicle caused the accident. Keep to the details of only what you know for certain. A rambling, dramatic encounter filled with hypotheses will not help your case.
- Become your own lead investigator. You know your car’s appearance better than anyone. Find any evidence you can of contact with the phantom vehicle and point it out to anyone inspecting your car.
- If your passengers agree to sign a waiver saying they won’t look for any UIM benefits from your insurance company, from the phantom driver or from you, they can actually be used as that critical disinterested third party to prove your claim.
- Talk to your own insurance company about the accident and be prepared for a grilling. They’re going to want to know absolutely everything, including:
- Exactly how the accident happened
- Anything you can tell them about the phantom vehicle
- Whether you’re willing to give a recorded statement to them about the accident. If you’ve spoken to your attorney before seeing the insurance company, discuss this with them, but generally speaking, it’s all right to give a recorded statement, providing you stick completely to the facts.
Because phantom vehicle claims are by their nature wide open to fraud, it is actually essential that you cooperate fully with the investigation into your claim. Without an at-fault driver to question, insurance companies are very wary that someone who has made a mistake that didn’t involve anyone else is just trying to make a claim to cover their own negligence.
Clearly, filing a phantom vehicle accident or UIM claim is potentially a highly complex process that if handled incorrectly can leave innocent victims struggling to cope with mountain-high medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering and a true loss of the enjoyment of life. With so much at risk, it makes good sense to let an experienced Portland car accident attorney deal with the complexities of the case while you concentrate on your recovery. The consultation is free, so even before you contact the insurance company, call the lawyer, ask your questions and find out the very best way to move your case forward.