In 2019, there were 14 reported hit-and-run accidents that resulted in fatalities or injuries in Irvine. Hit-and-run accidents are particularly devastating because the victims do not immediately get the at-fault driver’s information.
What constitutes a hit-and-run accident in California? How does the law support hit-and-run accident victims? What steps should you take if you were injured by a driver who fled the scene? Here is a complete guide to hit-and-run accidents and how a car accident lawyer can help.
What Is a Hit-and-Run Accident in California?
An accident in California is considered a hit-and-run any time the at-fault driver does not voluntarily offer their information to the affected parties. Most often, when we think of hit-and-runs, we think of drivers that flee the scene after hitting another car.
However, an accident can still be considered a hit-and-run even if the driver does initially stop their car. If, when asked by the affected parties, the driver refuses to offer their information and leaves before doing so, this is also a hit-and-run.
Typically, the victim of a car accident collects the insurance information of the at-fault driver. This allows them to file a personal injury claim and recover related damages. Without that information, the victim is left with limited options.
What Should You Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
If you are struck by a driver who flees the scene, the first thing to do is call the police. It is important that they take a thorough report of the accident, documenting any damage and taking down witness statements. Oftentimes, victims or witnesses can provide a description of the at-fault driver’s car, which is crucial for the investigation.
Once you have called the police, assess any injuries you may have. If you require immediate medical assistance, make sure that someone calls an ambulance. If you do not require medical assistance, remain at the scene of the accident until the police have taken their report. Then, see a doctor as soon as possible, regardless of how minor you believe your injuries are. A medical report is necessary when an insurance claim is filed.
You should also call your own insurance company right away. If the at-fault driver isn’t found, you may need to try to recover damages using your own insurance policy. Finally, contact an experienced car accident attorney, who will help you navigate the process of recovering damages.
How Does the Law Support Hit-and-Run Accident Victims?
In the state of California, hit-and-runs are illegal. If the driver fled the scene after causing property damage, they are facing a misdemeanor charge. If the driver fled the scene after causing injuries or fatalities, they are facing a felony charge.
Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom passed the Yellow Alert law, which will go into effect in January of 2023. The purpose of this law is to make it easier to track down the drivers responsible for hit-and-run accidents.
If you have a license plate number or description of the vehicle, one or both will be displayed on California freeways so that other drivers and police officers can report the vehicle if spotted.
If the police find the at-fault driver, they will face felony charges. In some cases, a criminal court judge will include restitution in the defendant’s sentence. However, you should still file a personal injury claim against the defendant to ensure that you recover the maximum damages possible.
Can You File a Personal Injury Claim After a Hit-and-Run?
Car accident victims often file personal injury claims against at-fault drivers when they can prove that:
- the driver’s negligence caused the accident
- the accident left the victim with significant injuries
- the injuries and other circumstances are causing serious financial strain
If the police are able to locate the at-fault driver, you can file a personal injury claim. This is why it’s important to collect the following after a hit-and-run:
- witness information
- documentation of the scene of the accident
- related medical records and bills
- additional documentation demonstrating financial strain, i.e. paystubs
An experienced car accident lawyer will also include non-economic damages in your claim. This refers to damages that aren’t documented in the form of tangible bills. Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and a diminished quality of life.
Recovering Damages Without the At-Fault Party
The victims of hit-and-run accidents often face significant financial strain and require compensation to avoid life-altering debt. What if the police aren’t able to track down the at-fault driver? Options to receive financial compensation include:
- filing a claim with your own insurance through your Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage
- filing a claim with your own insurance through your medical pay coverage
- filing a claim against other parties who are found to be at-fault
Unfortunately, filing a claim with your own insurance can raise your premiums, even if you weren’t responsible for the accident. Make sure to consult your attorney to exhaust other options before relying on your own car insurance to cover your bills.
This will include a thorough investigation in search of the at-fault driver and consideration of potential third parties who were also at fault.
Work With the Best Car Accident Attorneys in Irvine
If you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident, it’s time to talk to an experienced car accident attorney. Woodbridge Accident Lawyers are proud to serve injury victims in Irvine.
To get started, contact us today. Tell us the basics of your case so we can begin your free case evaluation. Securing a fair and reasonable settlement for our clients is our top priority.