When you hear the words “car crash” chances are the first thing that comes to mind is two cars colliding. But there are other types of vehicular accidents that are just as serious that don’t involve a car-on-car crunch up. Known as “no contact” accidents, these usually emanate from another driver being reckless or negligent on the road.
Basically, it’s where one driver forces another driver to crash because of their actions — without ever touching them. Accidents like this can be particularly traumatizing for the crash victim since they’re the only one that suffers. Frequently the offending driver may not even realize what they’ve done so they leave the scene. This is especially true in the case of semi-trucks that may not see a small car in their blind spot.
Similarly, we recently had a reader ask the following question: “Another driver ran me off the road and didn’t stop. Now I have no way to find out who it was and am unsure of what to do. Any advice?”
This is known as a run-off-road (ROR) accident and it’s more common than you might think.
How Common Is It to Be Run Off the Road by Another Driver?
According to data from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS), ROR crashes account for 64.4% of single-vehicle crashes. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found about 70% of all fatal single-vehicle crashes result from ROR situations.
Many ROR accidents become fatal because of the driver flipping their vehicle or colliding with a tree, pole, or barrier. Keep in mind, however, that not all ROR accidents are the result of another driver. Alternate precipitators may include things like the primary driver being distracted by passengers, texting, or something else. And in those situations, the driver is at-fault for their own accident.
But in cases where the ROR is the result of another driver, that’s where it can get tricky. Especially if the other driver doesn’t stay, which as mentioned above may not be because they’re trying to “get away.”
Frequently, the driver that caused another driver to have a ROR may not even realize they were at fault. But clearly, it’s harder to settle a claim if you’re in a no-contact accident with an aptly named “phantom driver.”
What Should I Do if I’m In a Single-Vehicle ROR Accident?
First, make certain you’re okay. Not all off-road situations are safe, so do not move from your vehicle unless you’re in harm’s way.
Then follow these steps:
- Call 911. You want emergency response teams and police on the scene as soon as possible. Even if you think your injuries or damages are minor, it’s important to call police and file a report.
- Try to remember everything you can about the other car. This means color, make, license plate (if possible), and any other identifying details.
- Note your crash specifics. Write down (or record in your phone) the date, time, and location of the crash. Also include what happened leading up to it. For example, did the other car cut you off and drive you into a ditch? Or did another driver get distracted and drift into your lane, forcing you to swerve?
- Take pictures of the whole scene. Try to get photos of your car and any damage to it. Also photograph the surroundings, weather, traffic conditions, your injuries, and anything else you think might be helpful.
- Talk to witnesses. This part is vital, especially in the case of a phantom driver. If any bystanders saw the accident, get their information. Also ask what they saw and how they think the accident occurred. Eyewitness testimony can help prove your case if you need to file an insurance claim. This is important so your insurance knows you’re not at-fault.
If you didn’t do these things at the scene, at least call the police. If you don’t know who the other driver was, it’s still extremely important to report the accident. That’s because police can also further investigate by checking any area video footage. This could help you potentially find the phantom driver.
How Insurance Will Likely Handle A ROR Accident
If you can somehow find the driver who ran you off the road then you can claim damages. However, it won’t be easy if they don’t admit fault. You will have to prove negligence through evidence from eyewitnesses, video footage, police reports, etc.
However, if another driver was responsible for your accident and they’re unlocatable, you’ll have to file with your own insurance. Typically, your insurance will treat such a claim as they would an uninsured driver. This should fall under the “uninsured motorist” (UIM) part of your coverage. But don’t expect them to just easily hand you money to cover your accident either.
The problem is that it can be hard to prove the accident was another driver’s fault. Your insurance company may try to pay less than you deserve if you can’t offer “proof.” This is purportedly to keep people from fraudulently claiming they were in a ROR accident when they were actually at-fault. That’s why eyewitnesses are particularly important.
What often happens in these cases, however, is that your insurance company will lowball you with a settlement. Or they’ll force you to file a claim stating you were at-fault to get any payout — even if you weren’t.
This is one type of car accident case where you really need a lawyer, particularly if you’ve suffered personal injury. Because the burden of proof is on you, even your own insurance may make it really challenging. To get the settlement you deserve, it pays to have a skilled attorney in your corner.
ROR cases are tricky, but if you’ve been injured because of a phantom driver, you still deserve adequate coverage. Don’t let your insurance company try to “ghost” you too! We can connect you with a nearby lawyer for a free, no-obligation case review by phone now.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann