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Uninsured hit-and-run driver leaves Valley student with massive bill
PHOENIX - Brianna Trevino was so proud when she bought her first car two years ago. It's a 2010 Dodge Challenger. But now, it's barely recognizable.
"I get stared at a lot actually," said the 22-year-old college student.
Trevino saved her money for months. It was no easy feat since she's been on her own since she was 16.
She lost her mother that year and has since helped raise her younger brother.
"So ever since then, I've had to work," Trevino said.
A hit-and-run driver cut her off and caused a collision at the intersection of 12th Street and Missouri Avenue on April 2. Luckily for her, that driver just bought the car, and a dealership employee was following him. That worker stopped and gave her and police the driver's name and address.
"Since he just bought the car, his insurance didn't notify the DMV, so he wasn't coming up as registered with insurance," she said.
At last check with the state, Trevino said the car isn't registered at all. She waited close to four months to see if he did have insurance and it would go through. Since it hasn't, now she has to pay.
She said her own insurance policy would only pay $1,000. That's not enough to put much of a dent in the repair bill. The quote she received is around $7,000. That's more than the market value of the car.
"You're on the hook for yourself. You have to pay for it yourself," said local CPA and financial expert Robert Hockensmith. "You have to make sure you get your car repaired, or you walk, so you're on your own."
Hockensmith said there are some things you can do to protect yourself in case you're hit by an uninsured driver. First, carry collision coverage. Also, buy uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. It won't pay for damage in Arizona, but it will cover medical bills.
"Those costs can skyrocket pretty quickly," said Hockensmith.
As for protecting your wallet in the event of a crash that is your fault, he said to buy more than the minimum coverage.
The minimum coverage in Arizona is $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident for bodily injury liability coverage. It is $10,000 for property damage liability coverage.
"Never buy just the minimum," said Hockensmith. "Only $10,000 for property damage means you're on the hook for the rest if you don't have umbrella insurance or some other form."
With many cars on the road costing in the tens of thousands of dollars, $10,000 is a drop in the bucket. Plus, $15,000 for medical bills also won't go far with today's emergency care costs.
Luckily for Trevino, she and her 11-year-old cousin weren't hurt. But the situation is certainly painful.
"I just left it in God's hands," Trevino said. "Everything happens for a reason, and sooner or later he'll have to pay for it."
Police have not charged that driver. They said they are still working to confirm his identity.