A car accident is scary enough, but it can be even more frightening when the person responsible flees the scene. Not only are you left with the surprise, anger, and frustration, you are left to deal with the consequences of another’s careless actions. It is a common misconception that you are out-of-luck regarding compensation if you are injured in a hit-and-run, but that isn’t always true. Here is what you need to know if you were involved in a hit-and-run accident in California.
What Exactly Constitutes a Hit-and-Run?
According to California law, a hit-and-run is when the driver leaves the scene of an accident without providing contact information to the other driver involved or leaves before police arrive if the accident is serious.
For example, if you are hit by a driver who runs a stop sign and instead of pulling over to provide you with contact and insurance information, they drive off. On the other hand, a hit and run can occur when the negligent driver stops to speak with you but then leaves before giving you their contact and insurance information.
What to Do Right After a Hit-and-Run
If you find yourself the victim of a hit-and-run accident, immediately get yourself out of the way of traffic and relocate to a safe location. Call 911 immediately. Inform the operator that you were involved in a hit and run, where it occurred and whether you have injuries. Provide the operator all details that you have about the negligent driver, damage to your car and/ or injury you suffered.
Try to remember as many details about the car that hit you. Write down notes about everything you remember. Important details include:
- The car’s make, model, color, and any defining characteristics.
- The car’s license plate number. Even a partial plate is better than nothing.
- Driver’s physical appearance.
- The location, time, and circumstances surrounding the crash.
These details will be important in building a case after your accident and are crucial if the driver is found.
Filing an Insurance Claim
Just like any other accident, you will need to notify your insurance company. California law allows you to file a claim for a hit-and-run for up to two years after the accident. You will need to provide your insurance company with the police report, and other pertinent information you can recall from the events surrounding the collision.
Even if you never find the other driver, your insurance coverage may cover some of the damages associated with your accident. For example, if you have Medical Payment coverage under your policy, you can use your coverage to seek medical care. If you have Uninsured Motorist Protection (UM) coverage, you can tap into that coverage for compensation of your injuries and also your property damage depending on the terms of your policy.
It is important that you know that you can tap into these coverages under your own insurance policy without it raising your premiums! This is because you were not at fault for the accident. It is important to consult with an attorney in these kinds of situations to fully assess your rights and options. You may have more than you thought despite the frustrating situation you find yourself in when a negligent driver takes off.
Talk to an Attorney as Soon as Possible
A hit-and-run accident case can quickly become complicated, especially if you have sustained severe and life-long injuries. The insurance company will often fight to prevent its customers from receiving the promised coverage in a hit-and-run. However, they know that an attorney understands their tactics and won’t stand for getting the run-around. It is paramount that you have an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate through the process from start to finish.