Being in a car accident is a nightmare. The injuries, the hospital bills, and the lengthy claims process can make what should have been a leisurely drive into one of the worst moments of your life. What could make the situation even worse, however, is the at-fault driver taking off before you can get their contact info, leaving you injured, alone, and with seemingly no hope to ever receive compensation. However, there may be more options to recover compensation than you realize.
Launching an Investigation
One of the first avenues you can try is speaking with the police. Hit-and-runs are highly illegal in California, especially if one of the people involved was seriously injured. This means that local law enforcement will have a vested interest in finding the culprit. This can be difficult to successfully pull off, but you can help by providing specific pieces of information, such as:
- Make and model of the car
- Any key features of the car, such as dents or large scratches
- The color of the car
- The license plate, either complete or partial
- A description of the driver
Getting and remembering this kind of information can be difficult, especially if the accident was during the night or poor weather, or you were severely injured. That is why speaking with witnesses can be helpful. A witness would have a different vantage point than you and may be able to give you key information. However, if the investigation doesn’t seem like it will be fruitful, you still have a couple more options to try.
Relying on Your Own Insurance Policy
In California, auto insurance is a legal requirement if you want to drive lawfully. Many hit-and-runs happen because the at-fault driver did not have insurance and, knowing they were breaking the law, fled rather than own up to their bad choices. The good thing about legally required auto insurance is that it means you may have an uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on your policy.
A UM policy is for exactly this kind of situation when you are unable to claim against an at-fault driver, either because they fled or because they don’t have insurance. Following a hit-and-run, you can turn to your own insurance provider and file a claim in order to receive compensation.
Under California law, UM coverage is not a requirement. However, insurance companies must offer you such coverage clearly and, in order to refuse it, you must fill out a specific form. If you are unsure of whether or not you have such a policy, chances are you do, or your insurance broke the law by not initially offering it to you.
Working With a Skilled Attorney
Even if you believe that you do not have a UM policy and you are unsure as to whether the investigation will actually result in your finding the at-fault driver, you still shouldn’t give up. With an experienced and knowledgeable Santa Barbara auto accident attorney providing you expert legal aid, you could still find other avenues to recover compensation. We at NordstrandBlack PC are experts in our field and are passionate about helping those in need. If you or a loved one has been injured in a hit-and-run accident, call our firm at (805) 962-2022. We are waiting to help.