An unfortunate hit and run in Venice Beach resulted in a death in 2013. (Wikimedia Commons photo)
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run automobile accident, the situation can be complicated. But there are some things you can do to help remedy an unfortunate situation.
A hit and run occurs when a driver flees the scene of a collision with another car, a bicyclist or motorcycle, a pedestrian or an object such as a mailbox or storefront or structure such as your home or apartment.
Whatever you do, when you are in an accident do not flee the scene even if you did not cause the accident. The legal and even criminal consequences can be stiff, including large fines and jail or prison terms in California if serious injuries or death are involved.
Also, if you’re a victim don’t chase a fleeing driver who hit you or you could end up causing or being in another accident.
It’s usually not considered fleeing if you leave the immediate scene of the accident to get help or to get better cell phone reception, for example.
The first thing you should do is call the emergency services for help, to get help for those injured and to file a report with the police.
Get as much identifying information about the driver who fled as possible. Get the make, model, color and year of his car. Write them down. Try to see the license plate number and write it down or enter a note in your cell phone or send a text with the information immediately so you don’t forget it.
Try to get a good look at what the other driver looks like. The emergency dispatcher may ask for all this information, but if not the police officer who comes to the accident scene more than likely will.
Try to get the identification and contact information of witnesses at the scene and write them down. If a person stopped to help, he will probably be good enough to allow you to take down contact information. Get information from as many witnesses as you can before they leave. This information may be invaluable to the authorities in pursuing the hit-and-run driver, and it may eventually help you if you are able to or need to file a lawsuit.
The police and the insurance company need information from witnesses to determine who was negligent or at fault in the accident. Also, it can help your lawyer, should you decide to hire one, to investigate the accident and get you compensation for any losses, medical bills, pain and suffering and possibly even punitive damages.
After you get home, call your insurance company. The insurance company may be required to compensate your for injuries and damage to your vehicle. In fact, often victims’ insurance companies end up paying for medical bills and auto damage after a hit and run because the fleeing party is never found.
Whether your insurance company pays depends on what type of coverage you have. You may need uninsured or under insured motorist coverage or other types of policies in the case of a hit-and-run accident.
If you or the authorities identify the driver who fled the scene you may be able to get their insurance company to pay if they have insurance and if you can prove he caused the accident. California is a fault state, and negligent drivers’ insurance companies are required to pay losses suffered by others in accidents.
Also, because the person fled and committed a crime, it may open the case up to punitive damages that could mean a larger settlement for the victim. Punitive damages in a hit-and-run case are meant to punish the defendant for fleeing. Even though the defendant may not have intentionally caused the accident, he did flee on purpose, and this is considered reprehensible or malicious behavior that sometimes may result in extra compensation.
We strongly urge you to consider calling an attorney if you’ve been injured in a hit and run accident, especially if your insurance company is reluctant to pay. Another reason to call us is if the police identified the party who crashed into you and caused you injuries and loss. Krasney Law of San Diego and San Bernardino can help hit and run victims recover all their losses and sometimes even more than that if we can recover damages for pain and suffering.
The initial consultation is free, and always remember, if you don’t get paid, either do we!! If there is no recovery, there is no fee and Krasney Law will collect no fees unless we recover money for you or the case goes to trial. Our phone number is (909) 380-7200. Or you can contact us through our Web site: http://krasneylaw.net/contact-us/.
The California laws on hit and run are at this website. The code says in part:
20001. (a) The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004.
The laws apply on state highways “and elsewhere throughout the State, unless expressly provided otherwise.” In other words, the hit-and-run laws apply off the roads and, for example, on sidewalks and in parking lots.