When a driver is involved in a car accident with another vehicle or a fixed object and leaves the scene of the accident, California Vehicle Code 20002 defines it as a misdemeanor hit and run – “it is a crime to flee the scene of an accident, without stopping and providing your information, when the accident caused damage to other vehicles, property”.
If a driver stops after an auto accident, gets out of their vehicle then later ends up leaving the scene without identifying themselves, this too will be treated as a hit and run. It is then essential to ensure that all parties properly exchanged their information (driver license and auto insurance documents) after a car crash. Some states also include in the definition of “hit and run”, any accident or collision with an animal. In most states it doesn’t matter if you were responsible for the auto accident – the act is committed simply by leaving the scene.
If you are involved in an accident with a hit and run driver, contact law enforcement right away – no later than 24 hours. If you are injured, go to the emergency room or urgent care. Contacting an experienced attorney at Aratta Law in Glendale California will greatly increase your chances of recovering compensation for property damage, medical expenses and pain and suffering compensation.
HIT AND RUN PENALTY
As a misdemeanor, under California Vehicle Code 20002, hit and run carries a possible sentence of up to six months in the county jail as well as a fine up to $1,000.00 dollars, or both. Penalties can also include 3 years of probation, restitution for the damage to property as well as 2 points on a California driving record. Some of the defenses for the charge would be: driver did not realize an accident had occurred; no damage occurred – say if you had bumped into a fence and there was no visible damage.
California Penal Code §20001 applies when a driver leaves the scene of an auto accident, without leaving identifying information, and someone other than the driver was injured or killed.
Penal Code § 20001 can be charged either as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If the defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor the punishment is: a fine of between 1,000 and 10,000 dollars; up to one year in county jail. If the defendant convicted of a felony, the punishment includes: A fine of between 1,000 and 10,000 dollars; 16 months to 3 years in state prison; 2 – 4 years in state prison in cases where death or serious injury occurred.
INJURIES CAUSED BY HIT AND RUN DRIVERS – WHY HAVING UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE IS NECESSARY
If your automobile policy includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurance company. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may also be used to help pay for damage and injury caused by a hit-and-run accident or a phantom vehicle. The hit-and-run driver’s “phantom” vehicle must actually have physically touched you (as a pedestrian) or your bicycle or an automobile (and not merely swerved into your lane).
If for any reason, the hit-and-run driver is not located by police and if you don’t have (UM/UIM) coverage, then you won’t be able to recover pain and suffering compensation for your injuries. This is why, having uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage is crucial when purchasing automobile insurance.
When you purchase auto insurance from an agent or directly from an auto insurance company, you must ensure that you understand what you’re buying and how the coverages would apply after an auto accident. Insurance agents may not explain the purpose and the meaning of auto coverages in depth. Always read your insuring agreements – which is typically mailed along with your declaration page to your garaging address after your auto policy becomes effective. Insuring agreements are not one size fits all. You must understand your auto insurance contract to act accordingly and prevent any future coverage denials by your auto insurance company.
In short, having UM/UIM coverage will protect your interests when the other party is either uninsured, flees the scene of the accident or does not have enough liability coverage to cover for your damages. Putting yourself at risk by not having this coverage will cost you in a long run.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A HIT AND RUN ACCIDENT
The police are often unable to catch hit-and-run drivers. You can increase their chance of finding the driver if you take photos or write down information immediately after the crash while the details are still fresh in your mind. If you happen to have a dash board camera, and if your camera captured the auto accident – this evidence would also assist the police in their investigation.
After a hit and run accident:
- Write down any details you noticed, for instance: color, make and model, license plate – even if the plate number is partial
- Call 911 and wait for police to arrive at the scene
- See if any witnesses stopped after the crash who may have helpful evidence that can identify the other driver / vehicle
- Check and see if nearby shops may have caught the accident on camera
- Take several photos of your vehicle to document the damage and the scene of the accident
WHY CHOOSE ARATTA LAW FIRM?
At our firm, every injured client will be in direct contact with an attorney. Many large corporate law firms end up transferring you to a case manager – you never speak to an attorney directly and your case becomes part of the mill.
At our firm, we do things different. We pay close attention to every individual case, from the inception and throughout the process of the claim / lawsuit. Our diligence and attention to detail result in consistent higher settlements, which adds up to a higher compensation for you, the client.
ATTORNEY’S ABILITY TO NEGOTIATE
Even though you may have a solid personal injury claim, the skill and the attentiveness of your attorney can also considerably impact how much compensation you will receive for your injuries. If your injury claim is negotiated by a case manager, assigned to your file at a firm, and not an attorney, your claim may end up settling for a lesser amount. This is because adjusters know who they’re dealing with and how aggressive the firm is when settling injury cases. Insurance adjusters also know who they can bully into accepting lower settlements.
An attorney’s ability to negotiate a settlement is, in many ways, the most important skill an attorney possesses. Lawyers who are effective negotiators know the importance of timing, preparation and strategy. That being said, our firm recognizes the importance of precision, timing and subsequent results, which is the foundation of Aratta Law. At our firm, nothing happens by luck but by great preparation and good strategy.