Filing a Hit-and-Run Accident Claim in California

Author: Nicki Malekadeli
Posted on: May 31, 2019

You’re on your way home, minding your own business and driving on the freeway within the speed limit. Suddenly, a car traveling at high speed comes out of nowhere and swerves into your vehicle. The force of the impact leads you crashing into a median wall. Injured yet conscious, you look around you to spot the car that hit you, but it is nowhere to be found.

You’ve just been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, a crash that is surprisingly common in California. A statement from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that the state has the most number of hit-and-run fatalities in the nation. Further data shows that there were 337 crashes in California in 2016 alone, showing a 60 percent increase since 2009.

The AAA researchers acknowledge that there is a growing safety challenge because of the rise of hit-and-run accidents being reported. As a driver, it pays to stay cautious and vigilant behind the wheel.

What Counts as a Hit-and-run Accident?

In California, a hit-and-run happens whenever a driver abandons the scene of an accident without providing contact info to the driver. In more serious accidents, it entails leaving the scene before the police arrive. Under CA Vehicle Code 20002, any driver involved in an accident resulting in damage to property needs to stop their vehicle at the nearest location immediately. They are also expected to do the following:

  • Locate and notify the owner of the car and provide identifiable information, like their name and address. Non-owners should give the details of the car’s registered owner).
  • Present their driver’s license and vehicle registration certificate upon request.
  • Provide “reasonable assistance” to receive medical assistance, such as calling an ambulance.

Failure to do the following could result in a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge. The only exception to this rule would be when the driver has to leave the scene to receive medical care. Otherwise, fleeing the scene would suggest guilt and would make it harder for them to prove that they are not at fault.

What Do You Do After a Hit-and-run?

Victims respond to a hit-and-run accident in two ways: right after the incident happens and the days and weeks following the crash. As a general rule, it is best to gather as much info as you can while keeping in contact with your insurer and the police.

At the Scene of a Hit-and-run

Right after the accident happens, the first thing you should do is move your car to a safe location and check whether anyone has been injured. Though it may seem tempting to drive off and catch the person who hit your car, it’s crucial that you stay at the scene since you might end up losing relevant evidence.

Start by recording the time and location. Take as many photos as you can for evidence. Call 911 immediately so that those who have been injured can receive medical attention right away. Look around for any witnesses and get their contact information to confirm that the driver fled the scene and to help build your case.

It also pays to keep the police in the loop so they can make a report. Some details you should take note of include:

  • The driver’s appearance
  • The circumstances of the crash
  • The car make, model, and color
  • Unique or identifying marks on the car, like dents or bumper stickers.

Following the Accident

Alert your insurance provider after the accident. The process for filing your hit-and-run claim is similar to other car insurance claims. The sooner you submit your claim, the better. California law allows hit-and-run victims to make a claim for up to two years following the incident. Just like other insurance claims, make sure you take notes describing repairs and the medical attention you will receive.

How Do You Prove a Hit-and-run?

California hit-and-run laws apply to every car accident, regardless of who was at fault, the amount of damage inflicted, or the seriousness of the injuries. If you have been a victim of a hit-and-run, you’ll need to prove that it happened to recover damages under the other driver’s coverage.

The requirements for a misdemeanor hit-and-run as described in Vehicle Code 20002 means proving that the following happened:

  • You were involved in a vehicle accident while driving.
  • The accident caused damage to another person’s property.
  • You either knew that another person’s property had been damaged or it was probable that another person’s property was damaged because of the nature of the crash.
  • You willfully failed to perform any of the duties mentioned above.

For hit-and-run cases with injury, on the other hand, you’ll need to prove:

  • The accident led to the death of or caused serious injury to someone else.
  • You either knew that another person was involved in a hit-and-run, or it was probable that another person’s property was damaged because of the nature of the crash.

If the driver is proven to have committed a hit-and-run misdemeanor, the penalties can run steep. The degree of punishment could range from a fine of $1,000 and penalty assessments to up to six months in county jail.

Get Legal Assistance from an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

The legal consequences of a hit-and-run accident tend to be more complicated than ordinary traffic accidents. If the driver who hit your car flee the scene, you might only be granted a small amount of compensation from your insurance company. Secure the compensation you deserve from the party at fault by employing an experienced and competent car accident attorney in California.

Mesriani Law Group provides top-notch legal services for car accident victims. Our “No Fee, Unless We Win” guarantee means we will work with you throughout your case to obtain maximum recovery.