Recovery from One-Car Motor Vehicle Collisions

Posted Monday, December 18, 2017 by Ed Harper

Often cars/drivers must react to the negligence of other drivers and this seems rather obvious. But, as a result of those reactions, if one crashes their car, through no fault of their own, they may make a claim for underinsured motorist coverage with their own insurance company. This may be the only recourse available. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) states:

“ ‘Underinsured motor vehicle’ means a motor vehicle regarding the ownership, maintenance, or use of which either no bodily injury or property damage liability bond or insurance policy applies at the time of an accident, or with respect to which the sum of the limits of liability under all bodily injury or property damage liability bonds and insurance policies applicable to a covered person after an accident is less than the applicable damages which the covered person is legally entitled to recover.” 48.22.030(1).

This means the other side either has no insurance coverage for the accident or there is only limited coverage available.

Additionally, the vehicle/driver which caused the accident is also known as a phantom vehicle because one may not know the identity of the driver/vehicle and therefore cannot bring a viable claim against an unknown party. The RCW defines phantom vehicle as:

“For this chapter [RCW 48)] a ‘phantom vehicle’ shall mean a motor vehicle which causes bodily injury, death, or property damage to an insured and has no physical contact with the insured or the vehicle which the insured is occupying at the time of the accident if:(a) the facts of the accident can be corroborated by competent evidence other than the testimony of the insured or any person having an UIM claim resulting from the accident; and(b) the accident has been reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency within 72 hours of the accident.” RCW 48.22.030(8).

As one can see, these requirements are very specific. Further, the term “corroborating evidence” in section (a) has been defined as evidence which “must tend to verify the claimant’s version of the facts and it is something which leads an impartial and reasonable mind to believe that the material testimony is true, testimony of some substantial fact or circumstance independent of the statement of a witness.” Gerkin v. Mutual of Enumclaw Ins. Co., 74 Wn.App.220, 225-26 (1994).

The corroboration must verify the claimant’s version of the accident independent of the injured person/claimant. One must also look to the insurance policy which must contain the independent corroboration requirement in RCW 48.22.030(8) for any claim arising from an incident with a phantom vehicle in order to enforce that statutory requirement. Liljestrand v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 47 Wn.App. 283, 290 (1987). The court is looking for independent evidence. Evidence cannot come from the claimant’s or claimant’s family which may be biased.

If you have been injured in a one car accident through no fault of your own, and you have questions whether you may bring a UIM claim, call Ed Harper at Harper Law 425-284-3333.

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Although our office does not handle all types of cases, we hope you will contact us regarding any legal issues you may encounter. We will answer your questions, or refer you to another quality and trustworthy attorney if we are unable to assist you.

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Harper Law PLLC
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