How to Handle a Hit-and-Run Accident

How to Handle a Hit-and-Run Accident

February 3, 2023

There is never a good time for a motor vehicle accident to occur, but it may be easier to get what you need to move past such an event when the other parties remain at the scene afterward. According to California law, those who are involved in a car accident are required to remain where they are and take reasonable steps to render aid. However, even if the other driver flees the scene of a crash, there are still many steps that you can take in an effort to obtain justice for yourself and other potential victims.

Call the Police to Report the Hit-and-Run

Whether the other driver stays at the scene or not, the first thing that you want to do after a car accident is to call the police. The officer who arrives at the scene will take a statement, ask if you need medical assistance and secure the crash site if necessary. The officer may put out a bulletin to other units in the area asking them to be on the lookout for a damaged vehicle. A bulletin may also advise other units to look for individuals walking on the highway or who otherwise look like they may have fled a crash scene.

Gather Evidence While Waiting for Police to Arrive

Whether a personal injury claim leads to compensation or not depends largely on the evidence that you present during settlement talks or at trial. Ideally, you will collect photos of the crash site, obtain cellphone or other footage taken prior to the crash and statements from anyone who may have seen the wreck occur.

Video footage may help you determine the make, model and other characteristics of the vehicle that struck yours. Photos from the crash scene may allow investigators to determine where your car was struck, which may make it possible to determine what type of damage the other driver’s car likely sustained.

Eyewitnesses may be able to tell you where the other car involved in the wreck went after the collision took place. There is also a chance that an eyewitness may be able to tell you who was driving the car or how you can get in touch with that person.

Seek Medical Assistance

If you were in your car at the time of the crash, you will want to seek medical assistance as quickly as possible. This is generally a good idea even if you feel fine immediately after the wreck as it can take several hours or days for injury symptoms to present themselves. Injury symptoms may be delayed because your body goes into shock in an effort to mask the pain it feels.

Therefore, going to the hospital may make it easier to diagnose and treat a concussion, internal bleeding or other maladies. The sooner your condition can be assessed, the less likely it is that you’ll suffer secondary health problems or even succumb to accident injuries. Furthermore, seeking treatment allows for the creation of medical records that can be used to create a link between the wreck and the defendant’s actions assuming that this person is eventually caught.

File a Claim With Your Insurance Company

Even if you don’t know who hit your car, you may still be required to report the accident to your insurance company in a timely manner. It may also be necessary to report the wreck to the DMV as well. If you have a smartphone, making a claim may be as simple as opening your insurance provider’s app, answering a few questions and hitting the submit button.

However, you may also be able to file a claim using a traditional computer or laptop, over the phone or by submitting documents by mail. After a claim has been received, your insurance company will likely begin an investigation to confirm that another driver was at-fault for the crash. Your insurance provider may also determine during the course of an investigation whether it will pay damages directly or seek a payout from the other party’s coverage provider.

You May Still Be Compensated Even if the Other Driver Isn’t Found

Typically, you would file a personal injury claim against the other driver’s auto policy. State law dictates that each motorist carry at least $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $30,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident and $5,000 in property damage coverage.

Of course, if you don’t know who the other driver is, you will likely need to file a claim against your own policy. If you have underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage, it may be possible to obtain compensation up to your policy’s limits. Alternatively, a claim may be made under the collision portion of your auto policy.

If you don’t have anything beyond general liability coverage, your only option may be to file a lawsuit against the other driver assuming that person is found. It’s also worth noting that you won’t receive any money if there is reason to believe that you played a role in causing the accident to happen.

For instance, if your car was illegally parked when it was struck, that may work against you. You may also be liable for an accident if you were driving in the wrong lane prior to an accident or failed to obey a stop sign or other traffic control device. Finally, your coverage provider, a judge or a jury may eventually find you at least partially negligent for a crash that occurred because of driver impairment.

The Types of Compensation Available After a Car Crash

California law allows you to seek many different types of damages in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. However, the extent to which you can collect largely depends on the type of coverage that you have and whether you know who caused the crash.

For instance, if you have MedPay coverage, a portion of your medical expenses may be covered on your behalf. If you have collision or underinsured/uninsured coverage, you may be entitled to some or all of the costs related to repairing your vehicle.

If you know who caused the crash, that person may be liable for all of your medical expenses related to the accident. Furthermore, the defendant would likely be liable for the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle or other items that were lost or damaged in the crash.

It’s fairly common for motor vehicle accident victims to have nightmares or suffer from other symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The costs associated with overcoming mental health issues associated with a hit-and-run may be covered by the defendant.

It’s critical to note that this assumes that another party is deemed to be at-fault for causing the crash to happen. California uses the comparative negligence system to determine fault in a personal injury case. This means that the size of a financial award is relative to your liability in the matter. For instance, if you were found to be 10% responsible for your injuries, you would receive 90% of any award that you receive in a settlement or from a jury.

Talk to a California Car Accident Attorney

You’ll likely experience a number of emotions after a hit-and-run crash, and you’ll likely have questions about what you can do to hold other parties responsible for their actions. Talking to an attorney may be an ideal way to learn more about how long you have to file a personal injury claim and the types of compensation that may be available.

In California, you typically have two years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Failing to abide by this deadline may make it harder to pursue a personal injury case even if you can prove that another party was negligent in causing bodily injury or damage to property.

A car accident attorney will likely file a lawsuit on your behalf the moment he or she is hired to represent your interests. Legal counsel may also take steps to help find the person who caused the crash or to find other information that might be useful when dealing with your auto coverage provider.

Posted by

Michael Avanesian

Michael Avanesian, the founder and driving force behind Avian Law Group, is a passionate and dedicated attorney with a strong background in personal injury law. As a partner at JT Legal Group, Michael led the growth of the personal injury practice from a single employee to a team of over ninety professionals, securing over $2 billion in settlements for clients in just three years.

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