If you’re driving down an expressway and a car drifts into your lane, you may be able to swerve into an empty lane and avoid a car accident.
But what if you’re driving down a two-lane road and a car brakes hard right in front of you? Your only options are:
- Hit the brakes and hope you don’t rear-end the car
- Swerve to the left and risk hitting oncoming traffic
- Swerve to the right off of the road
Many people’s instinct is to swerve to the right and take their chances off of the road.
But what if you hit a tree or a fence and still damage your car? Even worse, what if your off-road crash leaves you with serious injuries? Is the driver who caused you to swerve responsible for your damages?
Phantom Drivers in No-Contact Car Accidents
The situation above describes a no-contact car accident, in which another driver causes you to crash into something other than their car.
The other driver may not even know they caused your car accident. They may speed away, leaving you with a damaged or totaled car and maybe even some medical injuries.
The driver who caused you to crash is known as a phantom driver. Like a ghost, they may appear and cause harm, but you may never see them again, and it may be difficult to convince people they existed in the first place.
How Insurance Companies Handle No-Contact Car Accidents
Phantom drivers are usually treated by your insurance company like uninsured drivers through your uninsured/underinsured coverage.
All Indiana car insurance policies are required to have certain amounts of uninsured/underinsured coverage. You can only opt out of uninsured motorist coverage in writing at the time of purchase. If you don’t remember doing that, and you have car insurance, then you likely have uninsured/underinsured coverage.
Imagine you were in a normal car accident, and the person who caused it didn’t have insurance. You’d have to file a claim with your own insurance company, even though you weren’t at fault. The same is true in no-contact car accidents. If the person who’s really responsible for your accident cannot be located or identified, then your insurance company will likely treat them like a normal uninsured driver.
Some insurance companies don’t raise your premium if you’re not at fault. However, in a no-contact car accident, it may be difficult to prove to your insurance company that you really didn’t cause the accident. Be prepared for your premium to increase, even though you weren’t at fault.
The Need for Witnesses in No-Contact Car Accidents
Your insurance policy may require a witness to confirm that a phantom driver really did cause your car accident.
Some insurance companies require your witness to be an independent third party. That means your witness can’t be someone you know or have a relationship with. Your spouse, relative, or friend in the car with you at the time of the crash unfortunately won’t qualify as an independent third-party witness.
Independent eyewitnesses, therefore, are crucial to your claim in a no-contact car accident. Don’t be afraid to ask witnesses for their contact information. Ask local businesses for video footage of the car accident. If someone else can confirm that a phantom driver caused your car accident, their testimony may strengthen your claim.
If there are no witnesses — if it’s 2 a.m., you’re driving down a country road, a car swerves into your lane, and you hit a tree — you may have trouble proving to the insurance company that your phantom driver exists.
Legal Help after a No-Contact Car Accident
Whether you have witnesses or not, the insurance company may still call your phantom driver a hoax.
If you’ve been in a car accident because you tried to avoid hitting another car, Hensley Legal Group may be able to help. Call us at 317-472-3333, or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim.