What to Do After a California Hit-and-Run Car Accident [2021]

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What to Do After a California Hit-and-Run Car Accident

What to Do After a California Hit-and-Run Car Accident

May 27, 2021

Hit-and-run car accidents are not only incredibly frustrating, they can be dangerous – often resulting in serious injuries or even fatalities. And although hit-and-runs are occasionally reported on the news, they actually occur much more often than people may realize.

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) released its latest annual report in 2019, detailing the number of motor vehicle accidents and traffic fatalities according to type. The report confirmed that from 2016 to 2018, over 20,000 hit-and-run accidents occurred annually in California. Every year, more than 20,000 incidents involving a driver fleeing the scene of a car accident happen. And those hit-and-runs result in over 26,000 injuries each year – a number that has been steadily increasing.

Since 2014, hit-and-run injuries have increased significantly year-to-year. In 2014, there were 20,042 hit-and-run injuries throughout the state. In 2018, that number spiked to 26,247. Hit-and-run fatalities are also on the rise in California.

Tragically, over 300 people have died annually by hit-and-runs in California in 2016, 2017, and 2018. 2017 saw the highest hit-and-run fatality crash count with 374. That’s a considerable increase from 2014, when 298 hit-and-run fatalities occurred in the Golden State.

After posting a blog reporting on a local hit-and-run incident here in Glendale that led to the victim chasing the perpetrator, we received a number of inquiries regarding how to handle such an unfortunate incident. Below we’ll review the steps one should take after a hit-and-run, discuss the potential insurance implications, and examine the legal options for victims of this type of accident.

What is a Hit-and-Run Car Accident?

Under California law, a hit-and-run occurs any time a driver leaves the scene of a motor vehicle accident without providing proper contact information to the other party. This type of accident can range from a driver fleeing the scene of a minor fender bender, or failing to wait for police and paramedics to arrive after a serious accident. Under the law, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident (car, truck, motorcycle, scooter, or even a pedestrian struck by any of the aforementioned vehicles), you must exchange contact identification (e.g. a driver’s license) and vehicle registration information.

Additionally, it’s important for drivers to understand that committing a hit-and-run has nothing do to with fault. Even if you had zero responsibility under California’s comparative fault law (which assigns a portion of liability to each driver), by leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information you are effectively committing a hit-and-run.

Furthermore, drivers in California are expected to provide “reasonable assistance” to anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident. The only exception to this rule, under California law, would be if you needed to leave the scene to obtain emergency medical care for yourself or someone else.

For additional information on the rule of “reasonable assistance” (also known as the Good Samaritan Law), take a look at our comprehensive blog on the subject.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

What Are the Penalties for Committing a California Hit-and-Run Car Accident?

A hit-and-run is a serious crime. The severity of the punishment for such a crime typically depends on the extent of any physical damage to the vehicle and any injuries suffered by the other driver/passengers. Depending on the severity of the car accident, a hit-and-run can range from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The potential charges for a hit-and-run in California are as follows:

  • If no bodily injury occurs to anyone involved in the incident but there is physical damage to a vehicle, the act is considered a misdemeanor hit-and-run. The penalty for a misdemeanor hit-and-run in California is a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
  • If an injury occurs during a hit-and-run, the act is considered a felony. A hit-and-run felony in California carries a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000, and up to four years in prison. For a felony hit-and-run, the sentence typically depends on the extent of the injuries to the other driver/passengers. If someone is killed in a hit-and-run, a harsher sentence (along with additional charges) would likely be handed down.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been in a Hit-and-Run Accident?

What Should I Do if I've Been in a Hit-and-Run Accident?
In our previous blog reporting on the local Glendale hit-and-run, the victim decided to pursue the perpetrator when he failed to pull over. Although she (the victim) was, thankfully, not injured in the hit-and-run or the high-speed chase that ensued, pursuing a hit-and-run perpetrator is not recommended.

As we’ve noted in previous posts, road rage is an everyday phenomenon that often leads to serious injuries and even fatalities. While it may seem like pursuing a hit-and-run offender is a good decision in the heat of the moment (and it is entirely understandable that one might react that way, given the injustice of someone hitting your car and fleeing without any repercussions), doing so can actually put you in greater danger.

For starters, you may be injured, and pursuing the at-fault driver could exacerbate the injury. Moreover, the driver could react aggressively, leading to a physical altercation. As we mentioned in our road rage blog, the term was actually coined here in Los Angeles by KTLA reporters after a spate of deadly freeway shootings. Accordingly, if you’re ever involved in an unfortunate hit-and-run, do not pursue the at-fault driver.

Instead, it is recommended that you take the following steps:

  1. If you’re injured, call 911 and ensure that you are examined by a physician
  2. Gather as much information as possible about the at-fault driver so a police report can be compiled

Key information that can be useful in helping to identify the perpetrator includes:

  • Car make, model, and color
  • Any unique or identifying marks on the car (e.g. bumper stickers, scratches, dents)
  • License plate number
  • The at-fault driver’s appearance (any distinguishing marks or characteristics you may have noticed before he or she fled the scene)
  • The circumstances of the crash (provide as much detail as possible)

If you are not injured in the hit-and-run, gathering any available evidence at the scene immediately after the incident can be invaluable in helping to eventually identify the perpetrator.

If you are able, take pictures of the accident scene, the surrounding area, any skid marks or potholes, street signs and stoplights, etc. If there were any witnesses to the accident, get their contact information and, if possible, a statement to help corroborate your version of events. Let the witness know that you may be in touch in the future to help with a personal injury claim.

Finally, check with police regarding whether local stores or stoplights might have security camera or closed circuit TV footage of the accident. This can be an immediate means of identifying a hit-and-run offender.

Our experienced attorneys can help you pursue a financial award for your personal injury case. Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Does Insurance Cover a Hit-and-Run in California?

Unfortunately, in California, drivers are not able to use uninsured motorist coverage to pay for the damage to their vehicle if the at-fault driver is unidentifiable. Only medical bills can be covered (and usually just a portion) under uninsured motorist coverage. Collision coverage may pay for the cost to repair your vehicle, but with the other driver not being identified, you will more than likely have to pay the deductible out-of-pocket.

That said, both collision and uninsured motorist coverage are typically optional additions to standard auto insurance policies. This is not always the case, but it is a reason why you may want to review your current auto insurance policy before taking to California’s often dangerous roads and highways.

One good piece of news for California drivers is that state law stipulates auto insurance companies can only raise rates under specific circumstances. Per California law, as long as you make a claim for a hit-and-run within a “reasonable time” of the accident, the insurance company is not allowed to raise your rates. However, as this is not a law most Californians are familiar with, it would not be unfathomable to find a local driver who had his or her insurance rates increased after an untimely hit-and-run car accident.

Can I Sue After a Hit-and-Run?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to file a personal injury civil lawsuit against an unidentifiable individual. However, Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) Car Accident Division is considered the premier firm in California because of the advantages we provide, particularly to hit-and-run accident victims.

If you’re able to recover information about the offender – a partial license plate number, a distinguishing characteristic on the vehicle – this could allow our investigative team to launch an inquiry. DLG’s Car Accident Division features an investigative team led by retired LAPD Central Traffic Division detective, Moses Castillo. Castillo has investigated hundreds of hit-and-runs, rollovers, and multi-car crashes throughout his nearly 30-year career in law enforcement.

If you’re involved in a hit-and-run, don’t immediately give up hope that you’ll ever be able to recover financial compensation for physical injuries, damage to your vehicle, emotional trauma, medical bills, and more. DLG was founded by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. Dordulian has obtained over 100 jury trials throughout his decorated career. He understands the gravity of hit-and-run accidents, and the havoc they can wreak on innocent victims. He’s helped convict countless hit-and-run offenders in criminal court as a Deputy D.A., and today he uses that experience to help injured car accident victims recover the compensation they deserve via personal injury civil claims.

Contact a DLG team member today to discuss your potential hit-and-run car accident claim. Our experienced and dedicated team of car accident lawyers is the best in California. We’ll be able to assess the circumstances of your case and determine whether or not pursuing a civil claim towards a financial damages award is possible. If there’s a case to be made after a hit-and-run, choosing the DLG Advantage is the best decision you can make.

With our 98% success rate and history of recovering over $100 million in settlements and verdicts, you can be confident that when you bring your car accident claim to DLG, it will be handled professionally, discreetly, and successfully.

Contact us today online or by phone at 818-322-4056. Our No Win/No Fee Guarantee means that you never have to worry about upfront costs or hidden fees. With DLG, you pay nothing until we recover a maximum financial damages award on your behalf.

Go See Sam