"Uninsured motorist coverage” (also known as UM coverage) pursuant to Minnesota law explicitly includes a hit and run motor vehicle.” Minn. Stat. § 65B.43, subd. 18. Caselaw has held that the term "hit-and-run” is synonymous with an accident where the driver flees from the scene, even though no physical contact occurred between the phantom vehicle and the vehicle of the person making the uninsured motorist claim. Halseth v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 268 N.W.2d 730 (Minn. 1978). Prior to 1975, the law allowed UM claims where the driver that caused the accident is unidentified, but the actual contact between colliding vehicles was required. Minnesota law does not presently require physical contact with the phantom vehicle for an uninsured motorist claim to exist. Heldt v. Truck Ins. Exchange, No., C7-94-1009, 1995 WL 1496 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995).
An important distinction exists, however, differentiating between "hit and run” situations which is "an accident causing damages where the driver flees from the scene” and situations where the driver at fault is unidentified because the claimant simply did not obtain the necessary information to be able to identify the defendant. See Lhotka v. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co., 572 N.W.2d 772 (Minn. 1998) and Sao v American Family Ins. Group, C7-98-2010, 1999 WL 26213 (Minn. Ct. App. 1999).
Investigation is critical in UM cases involving hit and run or phantom vehicles. Physical evidence and witness statements are crucial to the success of these claims, so fact gathering by an experienced personal injury lawyer is key.