Being injured in a car accident is bad enough, but having the driver who hit you flee the scene makes it even more complicated. Hopefully, this will never happen to you, but if it does, the following information can help you understands your rights and what action to take.
If you or a loved one were injured in a hit-and-run accident, call the personal injury lawyers at The Dominguez Firm right away. We offer free consultations at (800) 818-1818.
What Is a Hit-and-Run Car Accident?
In California, a hit-and-run accident is a traffic collision where one party leaves the scene without stopping to fulfill their legal obligations. These obligations include providing their contact and insurance information to the other parties involved and offering aid to anyone injured, if necessary.
Drivers must stop immediately at the scene of an accident and provide the following information:
- Their name and current residence address.
- The name and address of the vehicle’s owner (if different from the driver).
- The vehicle’s registration number and, if available, the driver’s license information.
- If the accident resulted in injuries or property damage, the driver must also provide reasonable assistance to any injured parties. This includes calling for medical help or arranging transportation to a medical facility.
Leaving the scene of an accident without fulfilling these obligations is a serious offense. Hit-and-run accidents can lead to criminal charges, fines, and potential imprisonment, depending on the severity of the accident and whether it caused injuries or fatalities.
California law emphasizes the importance of remaining at the scene of an accident, exchanging information, and rendering aid to promote safety and ensure that all parties involved receive the necessary assistance and support after a collision.
How Is Fault Determined in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Determining fault in a hit-and-run accident can be a complex process. When a driver flees a crash, vital information needed to assign fault is often missing. However, investigators utilize available evidence and witness accounts to piece together the sequence of events.
Law enforcement will thoroughly examine the accident scene, gather any CCTV footage or nearby surveillance, and seek out witnesses who may have observed the incident. Skid marks, vehicle debris, and other physical evidence can also provide valuable insights. Additionally, the police will conduct a search for the fleeing driver to hold them accountable.
If the hit-and-run driver cannot be identified or remains at large, the injured party may still seek compensation through their own insurance policy if they have uninsured motorist coverage.
How Do I Bring a Claim Against a Hit-and-Run Driver?
If you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident, bringing a claim against the unidentified driver can be challenging but not impossible. Taking the right steps immediately after a car accident is crucial to protecting your rights and seeking compensation.
First, contact the police right away to report the hit-and-run. Then, gather as much information as possible. Note the time, date, and location of the accident, and try to remember any details about the other vehicle involved. If there were witnesses, get their contact information.
Next, seek medical attention promptly, even if your injuries seem minor. Document all medical treatment and keep records of related expenses.
Notify your insurance company about the accident immediately. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, it can provide financial protection in hit-and-run cases.
In most cases, drivers flee the scene of an accident because they don’t have auto insurance. However, this isn’t always the case. In some instances, insured drivers leave because they are intoxicated, drugged or driving recklessly.
What Compensation Can I Recover for a Hit-and-Run Accident?
If you’ve been a victim of a hit-and-run accident, you may wonder what compensation is available to help you recover physically, emotionally, and financially. The outcome usually hinges on whether the driver is found and/or if the victim has uninsured motorist coverage. Despite the challenges of identifying the at-fault driver, you still have the option to seek compensation.
If the responsible driver remains unidentified, victims must rely on their own insurance policies to recover their losses. While California doesn’t mandate personal injury protection or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, drivers should strongly consider these additions to their policies precisely because there are so many uninsured drivers on the road.
Note that a hit-and-run accident will essentially be treated as an encounter with an uninsured driver if the culprit is never found. In such cases, individuals can file a claim with their own insurance company and be eligible for coverage up to the limits of their policy. It may be unfair, but not having uninsured motorist coverage means you could end up paying for any damages out of your own pocket.
Here are some of the categories of compensation you could be entitled to:
- Medical Expenses: You can claim compensation for all medical costs related to your injuries, including hospital bills, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and ongoing treatment.
- Property Damage: If your vehicle was damaged in the hit-and-run, you can seek reimbursement for repairs or replacement.
- Lost Wages: If the injuries from the accident caused you to miss work, you can claim compensation for lost wages and potential loss of future earning capacity.
- Pain and Suffering: Physical injuries can cause immense pain and emotional distress. You can seek compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced because of the accident.
- Punitive Damages: In extreme cases where the hit-and-run driver’s actions were particularly reckless or malicious, you may be eligible for punitive damages, which aim to punish the wrongdoer.
Navigating the legal complexities of a hit-and-run accident claim can be overwhelming. Consulting an experienced California personal injury attorney is essential to protect your rights and pursue the maximum compensation possible for your injuries and losses. They will advocate on your behalf, deal with the insurance companies, and help you achieve the justice you deserve. Remember to act promptly, as there are time limits for filing hit-and-run claims.
If the Driver is Apprehended, What Penalties Do They Face for My Hit-and-Run Accident?
If the hit-and-run driver is apprehended, they will most likely face various criminal penalties depending on the specific circumstances of the accident. The penalties can be determined by factors such as the extent of property damage, whether there were injuries or fatalities, and the driver’s prior criminal record.
Here are the potential penalties the driver may face:
- Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run (Property Damage Only):
- If the hit-and-run resulted in only property damage and is charged as a misdemeanor, the driver could face up to six months in county jail.
- The driver may also be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
- Felony Hit-and-Run (Injury or Death Involved):
- If the hit-and-run resulted in injuries or fatalities and is charged as a felony, the driver may face 2 to 4 years in state prison.
- The driver could also be fined up to $10,000.
- Additional Penalties:
- The hit-and-run driver’s license can be suspended or revoked as part of the penalty.
- If the driver has prior convictions for hit-and-run offenses or other related crimes, the penalties may be more severe.
- The court may order the hit-and-run driver to pay restitution to the victims to compensate for any property damage or medical expenses resulting from the accident.
- Criminal Record:
- A hit-and-run conviction will result in a criminal record, which can have long-term consequences for the individual’s personal and professional life.
Note that even if the driver is found not guilty or guilty of a misdemeanor, you can still sue them in civil court for your injuries. In the U.S., the outcome of a criminal case has no bearing on a civil case against the same person. And because the burden of proof is much lower in a civil case, the chances of obtaining compensation from a defendant with assets are much higher.
Does Being Involved in a Hit-and-Run Accident Impact My Insurance if I Was Not at Fault?
Whether a hit-and-run accident will impact your car insurance depends on the specific circumstances and the type of coverage you have. If you were found to be not at-fault for the accident, your premiums should not increase.
Here is how different types of coverage impact your claim:
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Uninsured motorist coverage can help cover your medical expenses and property damage caused by the hit-and-run driver. This coverage protects you if the at-fault driver is uninsured or cannot be identified (as in a hit-and-run).
Collision Coverage: If you have collision coverage, it could help cover the repairs to your vehicle, regardless of who was at fault. However, you may still have to pay a deductible before the insurance covers the rest of the expenses.
Liability Coverage: If the hit-and-run driver is eventually identified and found to be at fault, their liability insurance (if they have it) should cover your damages. If they are uninsured, your uninsured motorist coverage would come into play.
Potential Impact on Premiums: Reporting a hit-and-run accident and filing a claim should not raise your rates. If you were not at fault, your insurance company typically won’t raise your premiums.
It’s crucial to contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the hit-and-run accident and provide them with all the relevant details, including any information you might have about the other driver or vehicle involved. They will guide you through the claims process and help you determine how your coverage applies in this situation.
Insurance policies can vary, so it’s essential to review your specific policy or consult with your insurance agent to understand how your coverage will work in a hit-and-run situation.
How Often Do Hit-and-Run Accidents Happen in California? Also, How Likely Are the Drivers to Be Apprehended?
California had the sad distinction of leading the nation for fatal hit-and-run accidents between 2010-2019. During that period there were 3,056 deaths. The rate of hit-and-run drivers being caught in the Golden State can vary depending on various factors, including the circumstances of the accident, the availability of witnesses or surveillance footage, and the efforts of law enforcement to investigate the case. It is difficult to provide an exact percentage, as hit-and-run cases are usually influenced by many unpredictable factors.
In recent years, California has made efforts to address hit-and-run accidents more seriously due to their frequency. Law enforcement agencies are employing various strategies, such as:
Searching social media accounts for any information from possible eyewitnesses or incredibly, posts from the perpetrator regarding the crash.
Organizing public awareness campaigns to encourage witnesses and the public to come forward with information. For more notorious accidents, such as where the driver has caused multiple deaths, large monetary rewards will often be offered by the police for information leading to an arrest.
Using advancements in surveillance technology and increased use of traffic cameras to help identify hit-and-run suspects.
Despite these efforts, it’s important to note that hit-and-run cases can still be challenging to solve, especially if there were no witnesses, no surveillance footage, or if the suspect’s vehicle cannot be easily identified. However, when perpetrators are caught, they can face serious consequences, including criminal charges and civil liability for the damages caused.
If you were in a hit-and-run accident, it’s crucial to report it to the police immediately and provide any relevant information that may help with the investigation. Remember that leaving the scene of an accident is illegal and can lead to severe penalties for the responsible party.
Injured in a Hit-and-Run Accident? Call The Dominguez Firm Now
If you were injured by someone who left the scene of the accident, call The Dominguez Firm for a free consultation right away at (800) 818-1818. Let us handle the investigation and insurance company adjuster so you can concentrate on your recovery.
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