Hit-and-run accidents in California have seen an alarming rise, with thousands affected annually. Recent data reveals that about 10% of accidents in the state between 2012 and 2021 involved a driver who fled the scene. In addition, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that in 2016, there were 2,049 fatalities in the U.S. attributed to hit-and-runs. These incidents often leave victims with physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial burdens. The high rate of these accidents underscores the urgency for victims to be well-informed about their rights and the legal avenues available to them.
California Law on Hit and Runs
In California, the law mandates that any driver involved in an accident, regardless of fault, must stop and remain at the scene. This requirement holds whether the accident involves another vehicle, a pedestrian, or someone’s property. If any person is injured or killed, it’s essential to provide reasonable assistance and immediately inform law enforcement or the California Highway Patrol.
Fleeing the scene without providing the necessary information or assistance can result in significant legal consequences. For incidents involving property damage alone, a violator might face misdemeanor charges. However, if injuries or fatalities are involved, the penalties can escalate to felony charges, resulting in steep fines, suspension of driving privileges, and potential incarceration.
Steps to Take Immediately After a Hit-and-Run Accident
- Ensure Safety: Before anything else, prioritize your safety and that of any passengers. If possible, move to a safe location away from traffic to prevent further accidents or injuries.
- Call the Police: It’s crucial to report the incident to the police as soon as you can. An official police report can be pivotal in insurance claims and any subsequent legal actions.
- Gather Evidence: Document everything you can about the scene. Take photos of your vehicle’s damages, any injuries, and the surrounding area. If there were any witnesses, take down their contact details and statements if possible.
- Seek Medical Attention: Even if you feel fine, some injuries might not manifest immediately after the trauma. Consulting a healthcare professional ensures your well-being and can provide vital documentation if injuries are discovered later.
- Notify Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurance provider about the incident as soon as possible. This initiates the claim process and ensures you’re aware of any coverage or benefits in the case of hit and runs.
- Keep Detailed Records: Maintain a folder or digital record of everything related to the accident. This includes medical bills, repair estimates, correspondence with insurance, and any other relevant documents.
- Consider Legal Representation: Depending on the severity of the incident and the challenges in securing compensation, consulting with a personal injury attorney can help safeguard your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Why Victims Need Legal Representation
Victims of hit and run accidents often face a complex maze of legal and insurance processes. Legal representation ensures that they are not taken advantage of by insurance companies aiming to minimize payouts. Moreover, a skilled attorney can thoroughly investigate the incident, potentially identifying the at-fault party even if they fled the scene. With legal expertise by their side, victims increase their chances of securing fair compensation for their injuries, damages, and emotional trauma.
Potential Damages in a Hit and Run Accident Case
In hit-and-run cases, victims can incur a variety of damages, both tangible and intangible. One of the most immediate and palpable damages is medical expenses. These can range from emergency room visits and hospital stays to long-term treatments and therapies, depending on the severity of the injuries sustained. Additionally, property damage, especially to vehicles, can result in repair or replacement costs that can be substantial.
Beyond these direct costs, victims may also experience losses that are harder to quantify but just as impactful. Lost wages due to time taken off work for recovery or ongoing medical appointments can result in a significant financial setback. Furthermore, the emotional and psychological trauma following such an incident, including pain and suffering or diminished quality of life, can be considered when seeking compensation. These non-economic damages can sometimes exceed the tangible costs, highlighting the profound effects a hit-and-run accident can have on an individual’s life.
Common Challenges in a Hit-and-Run Accident Case in Los Angeles
Hit-and-run cases present unique challenges that can complicate the pursuit of justice. Identifying the responsible party is often the primary hurdle, as the very nature of these incidents means the at-fault driver has fled, leaving limited information behind. Even when witnesses are present, their accounts can be fragmented or imprecise, making the identification process difficult. Furthermore, insurance companies might be hesitant to disburse compensation, especially if there’s insufficient evidence to support the claim. This can lead to lengthy and contentious negotiations, prolonging the victim’s distress.
How a California Personal Injury Attorney Can Help After a Hit and Run
A personal injury attorney possesses the expertise and resources to investigate hit and run incidents, exploring various avenues to identify the culprit and secure rightful compensation. Their experience with insurance companies allows them to advocate effectively on the victim’s behalf, often securing higher settlements than one might achieve alone.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a hit and run, don’t navigate this challenging journey by yourself. Reach out to Ardalan & Associates today, and let us champion your cause, ensuring justice is served and your rights are upheld.