Hit-and-Run Accidents: What You Need to Know

Being in an auto, bike or pedestrian accident is an awful experience. Watching the other car or truck speed away after striking you or your vehicle — and seeing the other person try to evade responsibility — is even worse.

Fortunately, the law is on your side. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about hit-and-run accidents — and how you can ensure that you are fairly compensated if you find yourself victimized by such a scenario.

Hit-and-Run Accidents By the Numbers

More than 2,000 people, on average, are killed by hit-and-run accidents every year. California has, on average, about 15% of those fatalities. This means that more than 300 people die every year in California from hit-and-run accidents — a number that has jumped sharply over the last decade.

These accidents are responsible for 20% of all pedestrian deaths. In fact, nearly 70% of hit-and-run fatalities involve pedestrians or cyclists. Hit-and-run accidents are also more frequent than many people may believe. It’s estimated that nearly 8% of all collisions involve a fleeing motorist.

How California Law Treats Hit-and-Run Cases

According to the California Vehicle Code, “the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, will immediately stop at the nearest location that won’t impede traffic or jeopardize safety of other motorists.”

In addition to stopping as soon as possible, the state vehicle code mandates that you provide your name, address, insurance, driver’s license and registration if requested.

To be convicted of hit-and-run, prosecutors must prove that someone was involved in a collision that caused damage to someone else or their personal property and that the driver who fled knew that a collision involving damage occurred. So, for example, if a driver marginally scraped against the side of another vehicle and was unaware that a collision occurred, that driver may plausibly contest a hit-and-run charge.

Hit-and-run cases can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the case. A less severe, misdemeanor case can result in six months in jail or a $1,000 fine, those first offenders may simply receive probation. A more serious case that involves significant injury or property damage may be prosecuted as a felony. Penalties may include up to four years in jail, a $10,000 and victim restitution. If death or serious injury other charges may be presented along with hit-and-run, such as vehicular manslaughter.

What If I Am Injured?

While the legal system has laws in place to ensure that hit-and-run offenders are dealt with criminally, that doesn’t help victims pay their medical bills or replace damaged property. In such cases, a civil action is necessary.

In civil court, a plaintiff can sue to recover damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. In some cases, litigation is not necessary, as the insurer for the person who committed the hit-and-run will offer a settlement.

Dealing with insurers — and successfully pursuing a civil case — often requires an experienced hand. This means that a law firm that specializes in hit-and-run accident litigation can help you deal with the complexities such cases present — and receive the compensation that you deserve.

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