What to do after a hit-and-run in Montana

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A hit-and-run can be a frightening experience and is not something most people would typically prepare for, but it’s important to know what options you have for handling the situation – especially given possible financial impacts. In Montana and other states, hit-and-runs are more common than you might think. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a hit-and-run occurs in the U.S. an estimated once every 43 seconds.

Hit-and-runs are one reason Montana mandates auto insurance for all drivers and places steep fines and penalties on drivers who cause hit-and-runs. If you are the victim of a Montana hit-and-run, your insurance may come into play for damages or injuries you sustain.

Hit-and-runs in Montana

A hit-and-run is an accident in which the at-fault driver does not stop after the collision to exchange insurance information or ensure that no one is hurt. Whether they have hit another car, a stationary object or a pedestrian, the offending driver seeks to avoid responsibility for their involvement by fleeing, which is illegal in Montana, among most states.

All drivers who have hit a person, car or object, are required to stop, render aid if able, exchange contact and insurance information, and – if there are injuries, – stay at the scene until the police have completed initial questioning. The only exception is if a driver has to leave the scene to seek emergency medical care for anyone involved in the accident.

Montana hit-and-run laws

Montana state laws regarding hit-and-runs reflect the seriousness of this type of infraction. Hit-and-run statutes are found mainly in Title 61, Chapter 7 of the Montana legal code. This section of the legal code states that drivers have a duty “to give information and render aid” following an accident. If there are injuries, police must be called, though it is generally a recommended practice to have a police report filed following an accident.

Penalties outlined in Montana’s hit-and-run laws include the following for drivers convicted:

  • If there were no injuries caused, hit-and-run drivers might be fined $200 to $300 and face possible prison time of up to 20 days. If convicted of hit-and-run more than once, fines increase to $500 and prison time of up to six months.
  • If there are injuries, the driver may face a fine of $100 to $5,000 and prison time of from 30 days to 365 days.
  • If substantial damages or deaths result from the accident, the driver will face fines of no more than $50,000 and prison time of 1 year to 10 years. The driver’s license will also be revoked.

A driver convicted of a hit-and-run might also face challenges with insurance. Auto insurers may drop the driver’s policy or deny renewal, especially high-risk driving behaviors. Even if the policy is not dropped or coverage denied, high-risk driving and serious traffic violations typically cause steep rate increases.

How hit-and-runs impact car insurance rates in Montana

While rates for high-risk drivers typically increase for drivers who are eligible to keep their auto policy, victims of the incident may not see high rate increases since they were not at-fault. However, if you file a claim for specific coverage (whether or not the other driver is found) to cover damages or medical expenses, you may be responsible for a deductible, which is the amount of financial responsibility you assume in the event of a loss.

The average increase that a 40-year-old driver will see following a Montana following a hit-and-run claim is about 80%. This reflects the increase from a pre-incident average annual premium of $1,737 for full coverage to $3,125. Hit and run rates in Montana are slightly less than the national average rates associated with post-hit-and-run rates, at $3,367 per year.

Compared to rates following a collision, which increases to an average of $2,483 per year, a hit-and-run has a much more substantial impact on rates for at-fault drivers.

Average annual full coverage premiums:

Before a hit-and-run After a hit-and-run After a standard accident
Montana average $1,737 $3,125 $2,483
National average $1,674 $3,367 $2,405

*The table above shows average annual full coverage premiums for 40-year-old drivers before and after an at-fault hit-and-run compared to a standard collision.

5 things to do after a hit-and-run in Montana

If you are the victim of a hit-and-run, you may be uncertain how best to handle the situation. Even if you are uninjured, the experience can leave you distracted or uncertain. Here is a general list of steps you may want to consider if you are able to take these actions.

  1. Get to safety: move your car off the road if it is safely operable. Be very careful if you open your door to step outside, especially if you’re on or near a busy road or highway.
  2. Check for injuries: check yourself and other passengers in your vehicle. Emergency services will also want an approximation of any other injuries to ensure they can render appropriate aid. Be cautious about moving anyone who is injured, as that is typically best left to EMTs or other emergency personnel.
  3. Call for help: contact 9-1-1 to report any injuries or concerns to help the injured get the necessary medical help. In addition, especially if someone has fled the scene, you will want to contact police officers to assist you.
  4. Document the accident: if you can do so safely, take cell phone pictures of your car, the road, and any other pertinent details. If there are eyewitnesses, ask for their contact information and see if they can stay until the police arrive.
  5. File a claim: if the other driver is later discovered, the claim may be subrogated to their insurance. File your claim as soon as you are able or as is necessary. If you have any questions or concerns about the claim-filing process for this type of situation, a licensed agent can provide the critical information you need to know..

Will insurance cover a hit-and-run?

Several aspects of car insurance may pay for expenses incurred following a hit-and-run incident that leaves you with vehicle damage or injuries. If the at-fault driver is found, their liability insurance will likely cover medical or repair costs up to their coverage limits. But what if they are not found, or if they are found and do not have insurance? In this situation, a few specific coverages you may have in your policy can be very helpful:

  • Collision coverage helps pay for damage to your vehicle regardless of fault, minus your deductible. Your deductible for collision coverage is the amount out of pocket you will be responsible for, separate from the insurance payout.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) may be used to pay for injuries if the other driver has no insurance, and in some cases, can be used if the at-fault driver in a hit-and-run is not found.
  • Medical payments (Medpay) coverage: this coverage provides medical and funeral expenses for you and your passengers. It may also be used if you are a pedestrian hurt in a hit-and-run.

Frequently asked questions

How much does car insurance cost?

The average cost of car insurance in Montana for a driver with a clean record is $1,737 per year for full coverage. Your own rate will vary based on multiple factors, including your vehicle type and value, your ZIP code and personal characteristics such as your credit rating or gender. If you opt to include coverage such as UM/UIM or higher coverage limits for comprehensive and collision, these can also affect your insurance premium.

Who has the best car insurance in Montana?

Montana car insurance companies are plentiful, and the best one for you may not be the best fit for another drivers’ situation. Insurance experts recommend comparing quotes from at least three of the top car insurance companies to see which offers the right mix of affordability, customer service, financial stability and discount opportunities for you.

Does hit-and-run Montana insurance cover me if I’m the victim?

If the driver is found and insured, their insurance will likely cover the cost of damages and medical expenses for injuries up to their policy’s limits. If they are found and do not have insurance, or if they are not found, you may need to file a claim with your own auto insurer.

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverage amounts that meet each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.

Incident: Rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base), at-fault accident and a hit and run.

Written by
Mary Van Keuren
Insurance Contributor
Mary Van Keuren has written for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, Coverage.com and Thesimpledollar.com for the past five years, specializing in home and auto insurance. She has also written extensively for consumer websites including reviews.com and myslumberyard.com. Prior to that, she worked as a writer in academia for several decades.
Edited by
Senior Insurance Editor