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Beware Hit and Run 

by Clint Burgess

In the middle of the day, on a quiet street, I became the unsuspecting victim of one of the plagues of car ownership. A hit and run. It was the day after Thanksgiving, no less, and the effects of the collision caper were a complete letdown from the euphoria I had experienced just the day before. It must have been the holiday cheer that prompted the perpetrator not to leave an "I'm sorry" note or insurance information, but rest assured -- this is not over.

Unfortunately, these random acts of unkindness strike without warning, and it's usually not until after the incident has occurred that the victim becomes aware of it. For whatever reason, drivers who commit the hit and run often have good reason for running. It may be outstanding warrants, lack of auto insurance or possibly even driving under the influence. The real tragedy about these situations is that usually it's the guiltless party who is left to deal with the consequences of someone else's poor decision-making skills. The effects of a hit and run, whether physical or financial, can be felt long after the accident occurs.

Consider the plight of Larue Drager. A few weeks ago, she was driving down Wellesley. Suddenly, a vehicle turned the wrong way into traffic and struck Drager's vehicle. "She [the other driver] hit the front end of my van and then smashed all the way down the side of it," Drager recalls. The offending driver didn't stop. Drager called 9-1-1, and police were on the scene in about 10 minutes. "They responded very quickly," says Drager. A short while after the accident, the driver returned to the scene with her husband. The offending driver was cited for driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Unfortunately this was only the beginning for Drager.

Now she is left with the unenviable task of getting her medical bills and property damage taken care of. When asked what it has been like dealing with the other driver's insurance company during this process, she asked if she could swear. Apparently things haven't gone smoothly. "It really has been the worst part of this whole thing," Drager says. The contact with the insurance company has been stressful and the firm isn't offering a fair price for the now totaled minivan. "Basically when I told them their offer wasn't fair their attitude was, 'that's the way it is -- so too bad.'" In Drager's case, she doesn't have a spare couple of thousand dollars lying around to cover the difference in what the insurance company is offering and what it will actually cost to buy another van. To compound matters, she and her young son (who was also in the vehicle during the accident) have two to three appointments a week at this time for soreness and other ailments as a result of the accident.

The message is that all of this was avoidable. My $300 deductible was avoidable. A friend told me she writes down license plates and car colors of vehicles parked around her in parking lots and on the street. Has it come to this?

Publication date: 12/09/04

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