What to do in a hit-and-run accident in California?
Hit and run car accidents happen far too often. The at-fault party leaves the scene of an accident before anyone can obtain identifying information from him/her. The four main reasons people flee after an accident are: (1) they are either on drugs or alcohol; (2) they do not have valid automobile insurance; (3) they have warrants; and (4) they are driving under a suspended/invalid driver’s license. As an Anaheim Personal Injury Attorney, we have experience with these accidents. If you or a loved one is involved in a hit-and-run accident, you need to remember the following things.
Gather information & get to a safe place.
Do not attempt to follow the fleeing defendant. That can only lead to another accident in which you may be potentially at fault. If you can, try to gather as much identifying information as possible of the defendant and his/her vehicle, for example: car color, make, model, license plate, and age, height, weight of the defendant. After a hit-and-run accident, the next thing to do is get yourself to a safe location.
Check for injuries and call 911.
Once you are in a safe location, you need to make sure that you and anyone else involved in the accident is okay. If you or anyone else was injured in the accident then you should call 911 and request emergency medical services to respond to the scene. Even if you think the injury “isn’t that bad”, it is best to have a trained medical professional make that determination. For example, in a “minor” rear-end accident, parties involved could suffer whiplash or other injuries not immediately evident at the scene. Often the shock and adrenaline from the hit-and-run accident can cause you to misjudge the severity of your injuries.
The most common hit-and-run injuries include:
- Bruising or contusion(s);
- Broken bone(s);
- Neck injury;
- Back injury;
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder;
- Spinal cord injury;
- Internal bleeding and organ damage;
- Paralysis; and
Make a Police Report.
Next, as with any accident or injury-causing incident where you may have a cause of action for negligence (i.e. you have a personal injury case), you must collect evidence necessary to support your claim. This is made harder when the other party has left the scene. You must still, however, call the police and attempt to make a police report. A hit-and-run can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. When an accident causes only property damage, it is a misdemeanor. If there’s an injury, it becomes a felony. In either case, the police should respond to the scene to gather testimony and physical evidence.
Who will pay for my injuries?
Who will be responsible for the damages caused by the fleeing defendant? If you suffer an injury in a hit-and-run accident, your only option to obtain compensation is uninsured or underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. You purchase UM coverage through your own auto insurance company. It provides compensation for you and passengers in an accident where an uninsured party causes injury. In a hit-and-run, the defendant is considered an uninsured motorist. Therefore, UM is how you get money for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering caused by the unidentified hit-and-run defendant.
Failure to make a police report within a reasonable time after an accident often leads to the insurance company denying UM coverage, because most UM policies require this element. Therefore, you should make a police report as soon as possible after an accident.
Call an Anaheim Personal Injury Attorney.
You should consult with an experienced Anaheim personal injury attorney about your hit-and-run accident. You must speak with a personal injury lawyer before you speak to the insurance company, including your own. Since you will likely have to recover through your own insurance company under the UM coverage, you want to be careful about what you say to the insurance company. When it comes time to negotiate your claim for settlement, your insurance company will use any statement you make against you if it means they will save money. Alternatively, the insurance company may try to settle with you quickly, and before you retain an attorney, so you do not maximize your compensation.
An Anaheim personal attorney lawyer like JSM Injury Firm can protect your interests throughout this process, so you get what you’re entitled to. Let us worry about every aspect of your hit-and-run accident claim, so that you can focus on getting better and putting your life back together. At JSM Injury Firm, consultations are free, and we do not charge a fee unless we win. Find out more about how we can maximize your compensation by clicking here.
Call us at 949-404-4826 or schedule a free consultation by clicking here.