Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Hit-and-Run Accident?
Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Hit-and-Run Accident? Victims injured in car accidents and other traffic collisions have the right to bring legal action against the responsible parties to recover compensation for their damages. But what happens when the person who caused your crash fled the scene?
Victims injured in car accidents and other traffic collisions have the right to bring legal action against the responsible parties to recover compensation for their damages. But what happens when the person who caused your crash fled the scene?
The answer will depend on what happened in your specific case and whether you carry uninsured / underinsured motorist insurance coverage.
Fleeing the Scene of an Accident is a Crime in California
In California, motorists involved in an accident must stop and remain at the scene. Specifically, California Vehicle Code 20002 requires drivers in crashes that involve property damage or injuries to:
- Immediately stop at the nearest safe location.
- Located other drivers involved.
- Exchange driver’s license, registration, and residence / contact information.
- If the other driver is not present, leave a note with contact information and an explanation of what happened.
Under California law, it is a crime to flee the scene of an accident. Hit-and-run is usually a misdemeanor, but drivers can be charged with a felony if an injury or death occurred.
California’s hit-and-run law exists to protect victims. Requiring motorists to stop and locate the other driver gives injured victims an opportunity to get immediate medical assistance if needed. It also ensures that victims know the identity of the other driver so they can seek payment for their losses.
The bottom line: victims hurt by hit-and-run drivers face the risk of not being able to recover the compensation they need.
Your Options After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Though the laws against fleeing the scene of an accident are clear, not every driver abides. According to NHTSA, there were over 737,000 hit-and-run accidents in California in 2016 – the most of any state.
If a driver in your accident fled the scene, you will likely have fewer options for compensation. This is true when hit-and-run drivers are never found and many times even when they are located. After all, drivers often flee because they are unlicensed or uninsured.
So what are your options? It depends on what happened in your specific crash. Generally speaking, you will have to seek compensation elsewhere. This could be another motorist who contributed to your crash (but who would be liable only for a portion of damages), the employer of a hit-and-run driver (if they were in a commercial vehicle you or a witness were able to identify), or some other third party (such as a manufacturer of defective products or a property owner that failed to fix premises hazards).
Because these are not usually viable options, the best way to recover compensation after a hit-and-run accident is to file a claim with your own insurance company. To do this, you must have uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage.
UM / UIM is optional when you purchase auto liability insurance, but it can make every difference in the event you and anyone in your vehicle is injured by a hit-and-run driver, an uninsured driver who does not have enough insurance to cover all damages, or a driver who has no insurance at all.
By bringing a claim with your own insurer under your UM / UIM coverage, you can seek financial compensation for your damages – including your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering – up to the limits of your policy. And while these claims are handled by your own insurance carrier, you should not expect they will easily and immediately pay out. Insurance companies are corporations that care more about profits than people.
At Drake Law Firm, we have recovered millions in compensation for auto accident victims across California, including those injured by uninsured or underinsured drivers. With years of insight into the insurance defense industry and over a century of combined experience in personal injury law, our attorneys know how to fight for the largest possible recoveries in UM / UIM claims.