Being involved in any car accident can be a frustrating experience, but you have even more worries if you're injured in a hit-and-run collision. You can't file a claim with the insurance company of the driver at fault unless you identify him.
However, don't give up hope on obtaining the compensation you're entitled to for your injuries. Working with an attorney who has an extensive understanding of these cases increases your chances of justice—and your ability to get a rightful settlement. Let me take you through the process.
What Defines a Hit and Run Accident in California?
All drivers in our state are required to stay at the scene of any car accident they're involved in, and it's considered a hit-and-run accident not to do so. This duty extends to even the most minor incidents, such as a slight tap in a rear-end collision or hitting a stationary car in a parking lot. Motorists must exchange contact information, wait until the police arrive at the scene, and provide reasonable assistance to others who need medical attention, such as calling for an ambulance. The only exception is that a person is permitted to leave the scene for immediate medical care.
It's a misdemeanor offense to engage in a hit-and-run where there are no injuries, and a felony to flee an accident where someone was injured or killed. If convicted, the driver could face a jail or prison sentence and a fine.
Why Motorists Flee the Scene of a Crash
It may seem unimaginable that someone would cause a collision, especially one where other people are injured, and not stop. However, some drivers do this because they believe they've done something wrong and are afraid of getting caught. Common reasons that individuals commit hit-and-runs include:
- Intoxication due to drug or alcohol consumption
- No auto insurance
- Suspended or revoked driver’s license
- Driving a stolen car
- Outstanding arrest warrants
- Illegally in the U.S.
- Possession of stolen property or illegal drugs
- Fear of an additional traffic citation
- Operation of company car
Steps You Should Take After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Just because drivers leave an accident scene doesn't automatically make them negligent. You'll still need to collect evidence to prove fault and to help identify them. Here's what you should do.
Stay at the Scene
Don't try to chase a hit-and-run driver. This could be dangerous and may lead to disputes with insurance companies about whether the collision occurred.
Get Medical Care
Even if you don't believe you're hurt, it's important to have a thorough doctor's exam right away. Some injuries might not present symptoms for a few days, but an examination provides a baseline of your condition as a result of the accident, which makes it easier for healthcare professionals to understand later developments.
Call the Police
Contact the police immediately. They'll investigate your accident and may be able to find the hit-and-run driver with the details you provide about him or his vehicle. In addition, you'll need the police report when you file a claim with insurance companies.
Write Down Details
The sooner you can do this while your memory is fresh, the better. Essential information includes:
- Make, model, and color of the vehicle
- Whether the vehicle was 2-door or 4-door
- The license plate number
- Any distinguishing marks on the vehicle, such as bumper stickers, dents, decals, broken lights, or paint markings
- Driver’s gender, approximate age, and appearance
Document your vehicle, the accident scene, your injuries, and anything else you believe will be helpful. And it might be a long shot, but snap a photo of the other vehicle, even if it's speeding away. These images help prove the collision occurred if there's a dispute, and how it happened. They may also enable the police investigation.
Get Contact Information for Witnesses
Bystanders often provide valuable details that help your case, especially if they can identify aspects of the hit-and-run driver and vehicle that you couldn't in the moment. Also ask nearby businesses if they have surveillance videos that may have recorded your collision.
Hire an Attorney
Another critical step to take after a hit-and-run accident is to hire an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. He can conduct a thorough investigation to determine its cause and collect evidence to hold the responsible party accountable. If the at-fault driver can't be found, your legal counsel can determine what policy coverage you have—such as MedPay, collision, and uninsured motorist—that helps pay for your injuries and property damage, and negotiate settlements for you.
Were you or a family member hurt in a hit-and-run accident in San Diego or Southern California? Call my office or start a live chat to schedule a free consultation to learn how I can assist you.