Hit-and-run crashes kill over 300 people every year in California. Thousands more receive injuries. These accidents place a heavy burden on every driver through higher insurance rates and soaring medical costs.
Here is a quick guide to California’s hit-and-run laws and what you can do after falling victim to a hit-and-run accident.
Duties of a Driver After an Accident
California imposes many duties on drivers after a car accident. When drivers fail to fulfill these duties, prosecutors can charge them with a crime under California law.
Accidents Involving Property Damage
If an accident only involves property damage, a driver must stop. You do not necessarily need to stop in traffic. You can move to a location that does not impede traffic or jeopardize your safety or the safety of other drivers.
After stopping, you must either:
- Locate and notify the property’s owner
- Leave a note and contact the police
The police can arrest someone who fails to take these steps with a charge of a misdemeanor hit-and-run. If convicted, the offender risks up to six months in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, or both jail time and a fine.
This law only applies to accidents in which no one was injured or killed. As a result, this law usually covers:
- Single-vehicle accidents
- Collisions with parked cars
Multi-vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents could reasonably cause an injury. As a result, they are usually covered by a different hit-and-run law.
Accidents Involving Injury or Death
California requires much more from drivers who are involved in accidents with injuries or deaths. It also imposes much harsher penalties on drivers who fail to fulfill their duties after a car accident.
After a car accident involving an injury or death, drivers must:
Stop at the Accident Scene
You must stop immediately after a collision that reasonably could have caused injury or death. Unlike damage-only accidents, the law does not specifically permit you to move your vehicle out of traffic or to a safe location after these accidents. Moving your vehicle could impede an accident investigation. You should probably leave your vehicle where it comes to rest.
If you fail to stop, prosecutors can charge you with a hit-and-run. Conviction carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
When the accident causes a permanent, serious injury, the court must impose a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail.
You must exchange information with the other drivers at the scene of the accident including:
- Current residence address
- Names and current residence addresses of any injured passengers
- Vehicle registration number
- Name and current residence address of the vehicle’s owner
You must also provide this information to any police officer who responds to the accident.
You must assist anyone injured in the accident by transporting them to a hospital or calling an ambulance.
Report the Accident
You must report any accident that results in a death or injury. You must report fatal car accidents to the police or California Highway Patrol (CHP) immediately. You have up to 24 hours to report a car accident resulting in an injury to the police or CHP.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident in California
To satisfy your legal duties and preserve a claim for compensation for any injuries you suffer, you should take a few steps after a hit-and-run accident.
California does not relieve you of your duty to stop just because another driver fails to stop. Also, chasing the fleeing driver could expose you to criminal and civil liability if you cause further damage or injuries.
Instead, stop your vehicle and check your injuries and any injuries to your passengers. Call for an ambulance if anyone needs immediate medical attention.
Call the Police or CHP
A hit-and-run is a crime. The police or CHP will need to investigate the accident for an accident report and possible criminal charges.
Write Down Anything that Can Identify the Hit-and-Run Perpetrator
If you have a license plate number or description of the vehicle that hit you, write it down or record a video. Both the police and your insurance carrier will want a description of the hit-and-run vehicle.
Seek Medical Attention
Get a diagnosis and medical treatment for any injuries you suffered. You will need to document your injuries if you file an injury claim or a lawsuit later on.
File an Insurance Claim
If your auto insurance policy includes uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim for a hit-and-run accident. Most insurance companies consider hit-and-run drivers to be uninsured motorists for purposes of these policies.
Monitor Your Case
Police only solve about 8-10% of hit-and-run cases. But if they find the driver behind your hit-and-run accident, you might be able to file an insurance claim or pursue a lawsuit against the driver.
The Role of a Lawyer After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Fleeing the scene of an accident shows “consciousness of guilt.” If the police identify the hit-and-run driver, you should consider hiring a lawyer to pursue an injury claim. The fact that the driver fled often persuades a jury to hold the hit-and-run driver liable for your injuries and award damages for your losses.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side.
If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines