When you are involved in an automobile accident, you expect the other driver of the vehicle to pull over, exchange information with you, and help those injured. Unfortunately, hit and run accidents are all too common. According to the AAA Foundation, there were 2,049 nationwide fatalities that occurred as the result of hit and run accidents in 2016 alone.
A hit and run act is a car accident with another car, a pedestrian or a standing object where one or all persons involved leave the scene without giving identification or stopping to aid those involved. If you were injured in a hit and run accident, the other driver may be held criminally liable and be responsible for your financial damages.
California Vehicle Code and Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and run accidents are considered criminal acts in California. California Vehicle Code 20002 states that:
“the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists.”
Depending on the circumstances of the incident and the damage that the other person sustained, California law classifies a hit and run as either misdemeanors or felonies.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run
According to California Vehicle Code 20002a, a misdemeanor hit and run accident occurs when a driver flees the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage but no physical injuries. Penalties for this violation of the law can include:
- Up to 6 months in jail or misdemeanor probation
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Restitution for property damage
- 2 driving record points
Felony Hit and Run
On the other hand, California Vehicle Code 20001 states that a felony hit and run occurs when another person has been injured or killed. Felony hit and run accidents can lead to severe penalties, including:
- 2-4 years in state prison or felony probation
- $1,000-$10,000 in fines
In either case, the persons injured will need an experienced attorney to help navigate the complex laws and details of a hit and run accident case. You may be entitled to compensation if you were the victim of a hit and run accident and sustained injuries including:
- Broken bones
- Nerve damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Organ damage
- Scarring or burns
- Emotional injuries
Why Leaving the Scene Is Illegal
In most states, even if the driver did not cause the accident, leaving could be illegal. The reason for leaving an accident scene could affect legal outcomes, however. For example, leaving to access emergency aid by going to a hilltop area to catch cell phone signals isn’t considered a hit and run act in most states when the driver returns to the accident scene after obtaining emergency assistance.
Hit and run laws are extended by most of the states to cover parking lot accidents. For example, leaving the parking area after hitting a parked car without leaving a note with contact information could be considered a hit and run incident in some states.
What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
It is a criminal offense to leave the scene of a car accident if there was property damage or injury. However, if the event that you are injured in a collision and the other driver flees the scene, you should know what steps to take in order to protect your rights and ensure your safety:
Assess if there are any injuries.
First and foremost, you should check to ensure that you and your passengers are okay. It is recommended to call 9-1-1 so that police and medical responders will be dispatched to the scene of the accident. Even if you don’t believe anyone is seriously injured, remember that some injuries may not manifest visually or immediately.
Do not attempt to chase the other vehicle. Instead, try to gather as much evidence as you can around you. This includes the fleeing vehicle’s make and model, license plate number, and any identifying features that you noticed about the other driver. Document the date and time of the accident, as well as the cross streets and surrounding scene, using photos and videos.
Look for witnesses.
If there were any other drivers, pedestrians, or bystanders who witnessed the accident, exchange contact information with them and ask that they give a statement to police about what they saw. Since the other driver fled the scene, witnesses may be able to help you identify who the driver was in order to hold this person liable for their actions.
File a police report.
The police should arrive at the scene of the accident after you call 9-1-1. Make sure you explain in as much detail as possible what happened and the details that you remember. Remember to refrain from mentioning anything about feeling uninjured because some injuries have delayed symptoms.
Get in touch with the insurance company.
Make a report to your insurance company about what happened. Depending on the type of coverage that you have, you may be able to initially receive reimbursement for your injuries and other damages from your own insurance company.
Contact a hit and run accident attorney.
It is in your best interest to contact a hit and run accident attorney who can ensure that you receive the maximum compensation from your own insurance company and work hard to identify the other driver and pursue compensation through this route.
Why Shegerian & Associates for Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and run accidents are serious incidents requiring the trusted assistance of a hit and run lawyer s familiar with traffic laws and the courts that enforce them. Shegerian & Associates is well prepared to take on your hit and run case with strategic representation to deliver the best legal outcome for your particular situation.
If you’ve been involved in a hit and run accident and need the help of an excellent team of qualified hit and run attorneys, contact Shegerian & Associates today.