More than 17,000 people were killed due to hit-and-run accidents in the last decade, and countless others were injured. While auto accidents are always serious events, a hit-and-run accident can be even more devastating. Without knowing who the perpetrator was, whether immediately or at all, it can be challenging to receive the compensation you need for any medical bills that result from your injuries.
Understanding what a hit-and-run accident is and what to do if you’re involved in one is crucial. Below, we’ve explained everything you need to know about hit and run accidents in California.
What Is Considered a Hit-and-Run Accident?
In a standard accident, both parties remain at the scene following the collision to check for injuries, exchange insurance information and wait for the authorities. But in a hit-and-run accident, the driver who hits someone flees the scene instead of remaining behind. This is against the law and can lead to severe consequences.
A hit-and-run accident in California could refer to any number of vehicles and pedestrians. For example, a hit-and-run might involve:
- A car or truck vs. a motorcycle
- A car or truck vs. a bicycle
- A car or truck vs. a pedestrian
- A motorcycle vs. a bicycle
- A motorcycle vs. a pedestrian
- A bicycle vs. a pedestrian
- Any motorized vehicle vs. property
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, it’s essential to report it immediately. The faster you report the accident, the greater the chances the authorities will be able to find the fleeing driver quickly.
How Can You Report a Hit-and-Run Accident?
You should report a hit-and-run accident the same way you would report any accident — by calling the police as soon as possible. If you haven’t suffered grievous injuries and your vehicle can be moved, relocate it to the side of the road before calling emergency professionals. This ensures you won’t accidentally be hit again while waiting for emergency personnel.
In a minor fender-bender where nobody has serious or apparent injuries, you can call the nearest police department’s non-emergency number. Be sure to tell the officer who takes your call that the other driver fled the scene, so they can send an extra patrol car to look for them. Try to give as many details about the other vehicle as possible, including the color, make, model and build. If you were able to get the license plate number, that’s even better. Of course, if you got a clear view of the other driver, the police will want any identifying information you can provide.
If you or any of your passengers are injured, call 9-1-1 right away. Let the dispatcher know you were involved in a car accident, then briefly detail any obvious injuries. Next, you can let the dispatcher know that the other vehicle fled the scene and provide identifying information. Dispatch will likely tell you not to move any injured passengers until emergency personnel arrive, but you’ll still want to try moving the vehicle off the road if possible.
What Should You Do Directly After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Immediately after a hit-and-run accident, you’ll want to follow the steps below:
- Check to see whether you or your passengers are seriously injured.
- If nobody is injured, move the vehicle off the roadway.
- Call 9-1-1 if the accident is serious or anyone has sustained injuries, or call the nearest police department if it was a minor fender-bender.
- Receive medical attention when first responders arrive, even if you don’t think you’re injured. It’s important that you have any injuries and their link to your accident documented as soon as possible in case an insurance company tries to claim that your injuries weren’t caused by your accident in an effort to not pay you.
- Go to the hospital for medical attention if first responders advise you to do so.
- Cooperate with police who arrive to investigate the crash and give them all possible identifying information on both the vehicle and the driver who hit you. Get a copy of the police report, as this can be vital evidence when it comes time to convincing an insurance company to pay you for your injuries.
- Contact a hit-and-run attorney to discuss your settlement options.
- Call your insurance company to report the accident.
Hit And Run Compensation
You may be wondering how you can be compensated for your injuries and damages if you have been involved in a hit-and-run accident. It can be quite difficult to get paid after hit-and-run accidents, even when it’s obvious that you’ve been injured, had those injuries diagnosed, and suffered obvious damage to your vehicle.
There are, however, options available to hit-and-run victims seeking compensation:
- Insurance claims: If your insurance policy includes uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, some or all of your damages may be paid for by your insurance company. If you do not, some of your damages may still be covered by collision coverage.
- MedPay: If your insurance policy includes medical payments coverage (MedPay), you may be able to recover all or some of your medical costs through this coverage.
- Investigations: An experienced hit-and-run lawyer like the lawyers at Nadrich & Cohen can assist with investigating your accident in order to identify the person who hit you and track them down.
- Identifying multiple defendants: If your accident was not only the fault of the hit-and-run driver, but was also the fault of outside factors such as a dangerous roadway condition, experienced hit-and-run lawyers can identify third parties, such as governments or private businesses, who may be held financially liable for your injuries.
When it comes to hit-and-run accidents, though, the problem is that even if you have all of the insurance coverage necessary to cover your losses, convincing an insurance company to pay you what you are entitled to can still end up being difficult. Insurance companies’ number one priority is preserving their own profit margin. They won’t want to pay you what you deserve if you can’t provide convincing evidence, and insurers are reluctant to engage in negotiations in good faith when the at-fault party hasn’t even been identified or found.
However, experienced hit-and-run attorneys like the attorneys at Nadrich & Cohen can assist you by identifying any and all options which are likely to obtain for you the justice and financial compensation you need and deserve.
You may be able to obtain financial compensation for many things after a hit-and-run accident, including:
- Medical bills
- The cost to repair or replace your vehicle
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Wrongful death
It can be quite difficult to calculate the damages available after a hit-and-run accident. In addition, you might not be eligible to claim some damages through UM/UIM or MedPay coverage. For these reasons, it is important that you obtain the representation of a lawyer who can help you through the negotiation process with the insurance company.
How Common Are Hit-and-Run Accidents?
Hit-and-run accidents are much more common than you might think. In 2015 alone, there were 737,100 hit-and-run crashes that resulted in more than 2,000 fatalities. As mentioned previously, the past decade saw over 17,000 deaths directly result from these types of accidents. Most of these fatalities occurred in California, as the state alone accounted for 17% of these reported deaths.
But some areas of California are more prone than others. According to more recent statistics from 2019, this is how many people were killed or injured in hit-and-run accidents in specific cities:
- Los Angeles: 4,194
- Palm Desert: 8
- Bakersfield: 216
- Fresno: 25
- Modesto: 155
- Tracy: 19
- Richmond: 60
- Hayward: 25
- San Francisco: 593
- Santa Rosa: 83
- Susanville: 0
- Sacramento: 340
- Yreka: 2
What Are the Penalties for the Driver at Fault in a Hit-and-Run Accident in California?
Two pieces of California legislature outline the definition of a hit-and-run accident and the penalties for these types of crashes.
According to California Vehicle Code §20002, “the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property … shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location … and either … locate and notify the owner or person in charge of that property … [or] leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle … the name and address of the driver.” In simple terms, this legislation outlines what a person should do in a misdemeanor crash that results in property damage but no injuries. It’s considered a misdemeanor hit-and-run if these guidelines aren’t obeyed, and violators can be subject to up to 6 months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine.
According to California Penal Code §20001, a felony hit-and-run has much more severe consequences. The legislature states that “the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person … or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene …” Penalties for fleeing the scene of a crime can include up to 1 year in prison or county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The law goes on to state a person who flees an accident that results in the death or permanent injury of another person can be sentenced to up to 4 years in prison and receive a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000.
How Are These Types of Accidents Investigated?
Hit-and-run accidents involve a more complicated investigation than average collisions, where all involved drivers remain at the scene. The first step begins when the police arrive at the scene and discuss the accident facts with the drivers and witnesses who remained. Along with receiving statements from the drivers, passengers and other witnesses, police will take photographs. They’ll also see if there’s additional available evidence, such as video footage.
With this information, police will try to track down the driver who fled. Often, police are able to catch hit-and-run drivers and prosecute them. Unfortunately, some drivers who flee an accident scene are never caught. The investigation for hit-and-run accidents can take days, weeks or even months, depending on the identifying information available and current police resources.
What Is the Average Settlement in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
It’s hard to determine an average settlement in hit-and-run accidents because the amount of damage to people and property can vary significantly. Minor accidents, such as fender-benders where no injuries have been sustained, may result in a small settlement. However, more serious hit-and-run accidents resulting in serious property damage or injuries can result in much larger settlements.
The best way to ensure you get the largest, fairest settlement for your hit-and-run accident is to work with an attorney specializing in these types of cases. A knowledgeable hit-and-run lawyer can help you through the investigation process and the subsequent prosecution to help you receive your much-needed compensation.
Do I Need A Hit-And-Run Lawyer?
It can be extremely stressful to be the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Not only will you have to recover from your injuries, but you will also have to try to find the driver who hit you, meet any applicable deadlines, and identify possible avenues of financial compensation. You may have to do all of these things at the same time, and this can be very stressful.
Obtaining the representation of a hit-and-run attorney can help you a lot when it comes to navigating through the post-accident process. You may find the driver who hit you and you may not. Either way, a lawyer can help you with all the various options you have in terms of obtaining compensation for medical bills, loss of income, pain, suffering and property damage.
An experienced hit-and-run lawyer can:
- Help you obtain justice
- Prove your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence
- Calculate how much compensation you’re entitled to
- Build a convincing argument that you deserve all of the compensation you’re entitled to
- Negotiate with insurance companies for you
- Make sure for you that any important deadlines are met
Get Help From a Hit-and-Run Lawyer Today
If you were involved in an accident where the other driver fled the scene, you need help from an experienced hit-and-run lawyer. Call Nadrich & Cohen Accident Injury Lawyers to learn how we can help you today. If preferred, you can also fill out our online contact form, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible so we can start working on your case.