California Car Crash Attorneys
A serious car accident in Southern California can leave you crippled with debilitating injuries and without the ability to earn a living. This terrible situation is even worse if the driver who hit you flees the scene of the accident. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles region is one of the country’s leaders in hit-and-run accidents, with approximately 20,000 accidents per year. Although anyone involved in a car accident in California is required to stop and exchange contact information with the other party, many do not.
But if the other party runs, don’t think there’s no way you can receive compensation for your accident injuries. You still can, and at Neale & Fhima, our personal injury attorneys can help make it happen.
Hit-and-Run Crashes Are Common in California
In California, it always is a good idea to be prepared for a hit-and-run accident. They are common. The California Office of Traffic Safety found that in 2012 there were 611 fatal or injury-causing hit-and-run crashes in San Bernardino County; 564 in Riverside County; and 5,979 in Los Angeles County. Fatal hit-and-run crashes are on the rise in the U.S. generally, with 1,274 in 2009 and 1,449 in 2011.
Under California law, a driver can be charged with misdemeanor hit and run under Vehicle Code 20002 VA if they leave the scene of an accident without identifying themselves to the other parties in the accident, and another person’s property was damaged. The hit-and-run driver can be charged with a felony if another driver or passenger was injured or killed. The only exception to the hit-and-run laws is if you leave the scene to get medical care for yourself or another person. But drivers still should provide their name, contact information and insurance policy data to the other driver before leaving the scene.
If you are a victim of a hit-and-run crash in Southern California, experts advise that you should follow these steps:
- Study the other car as it leaves the scene. The more you can remember about it, the better. Try to remember the color, make and model, and as much of the license plate number as possible. Immediately write down everything you remember. If the hit-and-run accident occurred to your parked vehicle and you were not there, write down the time, location and damage. Some drivers will attempt to hit an object with their vehicle and claim it was a hit and run, so you will need to be able to prove that you are not trying to commit fraud. The more information you have about the incident, the more believable your story.
- Talk to witnesses. Witnesses to an accident are usually neutral observers and may have a better view and memory of what happened. Get their contact information so that your insurance company attorney can get an official statement from them later. It is important to talk to witnesses as soon as possible after the accident. Memories tend to fade as the weeks pass. The more information you can get from witnesses immediately after the accident, the better the chances the hit-and-run driver can be found.
- Take photos. Pictures of the accident scene, your injuries, and vehicle are important for filing a claim or lawsuit.
- Call police. Tell the police when they arrive that you were in a hit-and-run accident, and provide them with as much information as you can about the other vehicle.
- See a doctor. You should be seen by a doctor for your injuries right away. The doctor will document your accident injuries, which is important for potential compensation later. People who wait to see a doctor until days after the accident often end up regretting it. The insurance company will probably argue that your accident injuries were caused by something else.
- File an insurance claim. If you cannot find the other driver, you may need to rely on your own insurance coverage to pay for your injuries (see more on this below). If you have only minimal coverage on your vehicle, you may have to pay for your damages and injuries out of pocket.
- Talk to an attorney. Hit-and-run accidents are stressful and complex. An experienced attorney will be invaluable to getting the maximum possible compensation. Even after considering the cost of the attorney’s contingency fee, most hit-and-run accident victims get more compensation from their insurance company by hiring a good personal injury attorney.
If you have serious injuries, you will want to know how to get compensation for your hit-and-run accident. Below is more information.
Compensation in a Hit-and-Run Accident
After a car accident in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, the at-fault driver typically is held liable for your medical bills, pain and suffering and related damages. The process is more complex when the driver flees the scene. The police may not be able to track down and arrest the at-fault driver.
Fortunately, victims may still be able to get compensation for their hit-and-run injuries. If you have auto insurance in California, your policy is required to have uninsured motorist coverage. The original idea of this type of protection was to provide coverage for you if you are in an accident with a person who has no liability insurance. But uninsured motorist coverage also will cover you when the at-fault driver flees the accident scene.
If you are in a hit-and-run collision, our personal injury attorneys at Neale & Fhima can work with your insurance company to ensure that you are compensated for your accident injuries. Our attorneys can also work with your insurance company to ensure that your insurance premium is not increased because of filing a claim for a hit-and-run accident. State law says that your insurance rates cannot increase after you make a hit-and-run claim on your policy, as long as the claim is made in a reasonable period of time after the accident.
You may think that it will be easy to reach a settlement with your auto insurance company in this situation. However, in a hit-and-run situation where you are tapping your own insurance policy to pay for your damages, your insurance company will be working to reduce what is paid out as much as possible. Most people in this position find that having a personal injury attorney represent them results in a better settlement.
You are required to have at least $15,000 per claimant or $30,000 per bodily injury claim in California, but we recommend that you carry as much as you can afford. A hit-and-run accident can leave you with hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal injury costs; and if you can never find the other driver, your insurance policy coverage is all you have to rely on. In many cases, the hit-and-run driver is never found, so it is wise to have ample coverage on your vehicle.
Neale & Fhima Hit-and-Run Attorneys Serving Southern California
A hit-and-run accident with serious injuries is something that you should never handle on your own. Neale & Fhima is a personal injury law firm serving Southern California, with offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco. If you have been hurt by a hit-and-run driver, please do not delay: Call us today or complete the contact form below, and we will get in touch with you immediately.