Hit-and-run accidents: when traffic victim assistance kicks in

Hit and run is not a trivial offense. Nevertheless, the German Federal Statistical Office noted for 2009 42.156 cases of "unauthorized departure from the scene of an accident", as the legal definition states. But who will pay for the damage if the person who caused the accident takes to his heels??

"Ideally, the police will record the accident on the spot; there is motor vehicle liability insurance for the vehicles involved, and necessary data will be exchanged between the parties involved for a subsequent settlement with the liability insurance company.", Brigitta Mehring from Arag outlines the process. The civil consequences of a traffic accident – claims for damages and possibly compensation for pain and suffering – are then settled by the motor vehicle liability insurance company. The situation is different if the person who caused the accident has made off without being detected. Then it looks extremely bad with a claim settlement and possibly the injured party remains sitting on his damage.

Traffic victim assistance from motor vehicle liability insurers

In such cases the Verkehrsopferhilfe (VOH) comes into play. "It is a registered association of German motor vehicle liability insurers and helps traffic victims in accidents in Germany that were caused by unidentified or uninsured motor vehicles.", explains Christian Lubke of the German Insurance Association: "Thus, whoever suffers personal injury or damage to property and who is entitled to compensation because of these damages, can, under certain conditions, also assert these claims for compensation against the compensation fund." A relevant application form can be found on the VOH website. In this case, the injured party must prove the involvement of another vehicle and the connection between the act and the damage. A brief description of the facts of the case and details of the damages claimed are also required. The claim of the injured party against the compensation fund becomes time-barred in three years.

"Material damage must amount to at least 500 euros"

"As a rule, VOH will only pay for property damage if people were also injured in the accident.", knows Paul Kuhn from the ADAC. This is to avoid excessive or even abusive use of the compensation fund. Important: "The damage to property must amount to at least 500 euros", the ADAC expert shows another limit to the compensation obligation. This is the case if the compensation fund is simultaneously obliged to pay compensation for the death of a person or significant injury to the body or health of the injured person himself or a passenger of the vehicle.

Compensation for pain and suffering

Claims for compensation for pain and suffering can only be asserted against the Compensation Fund in hit-and-run cases if it is necessary to avoid gross inequity due to the particular severity of the injury. According to Arag experts, this is the case when the injured party's injuries clearly and drastically exceed what occurs in normal road accidents. The damage that has occurred must stand out from the mass of personal injuries in that it represents a permanent and significant impairment of the physical functions of the person affected. This refers, for example, to cases of paraplegia, amputations and injuries with permanent consequences that lead to a significant restriction of earning capacity.

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