Santa Barbara Hit-and-Run Attorneys
When someone leaves the scene of a vehicle accident he or she was involved in, this is referred to as a hit-and-run. Whether they flee because they are under the influence, on parole, or they simply panic, it is a criminal offense in California.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, it is important to remain at the scene, call the authorities, and provide information to law enforcement and anyone else involved in the accident. While a criminal investigation and charges may arise from the crash if the perpetrator is identified, any civil damages you wish to pursue against the perpetrator are separate. You need an experienced Santa Barbara car accident attorney to represent you and find the compensation you need to heal, whether from the perpetrator’s insurance company or your own insurance company.
If you are involved in an accident, even if you do not think there is any damage to your vehicle, California law says you must remain at the scene. You are required by law to provide your name, address, and insurance information to anyone else involved in the accident, and they have to provide you with the same information. This often means remaining at the scene until emergency workers arrive, and providing information to law enforcement. When talking to law enforcement, provide an honest account of what happened but do not take responsibility for the collision.
In the event of a serious accident, you should do what you reasonably can to make sure other people are safe. Contact emergency services if necessary, and try to help people who are injured. It is important that you do not move anyone who may have suffered a neck injury or back injury unless that person is in a life-threatening location.
Once you determine that everyone is safe, it is important to try to talk to the other person involved and take a photo of their license plate. If you can, see if there are any witnesses and collect their names and contact information. Finally, take a look around and see if there are any cameras nearby that may have captured the incident.
Uninsured/underinsured (UMC/UIM) motorist coverage is an add-on to auto-insurance policies in California. The coverage means that a crash, so long as you’re not at fault, will still be covered if the other driver does not have insurance, enough insurance, or does not have a policy that can cover your medical bills or other potential losses. While California law mandates that auto-insurers offer (UMC/UIM), it is optional as to whether or not you sign up for it.
However, even if you do elect to get UMC/UIM, it does not mean you shouldn’t hire a lawyer after a hit-and-run. Often times, people think they have “full coverage,” but the minimum coverage is rarely enough for anything other than minor injuries. Additionally, insurance companies can be unreliable, and often do not want to pay as much as they should or as much as the victim needs. With a tried and true attorney by your side, you are much more likely to get a favorable outcome.
If you are involved in a hit-and-run, you may be tempted to chase the person fleeing the scene of the collision. You should not do this. Chasing a fleeing vehicle can put other people in danger and breaks the law requiring you to stay at the scene. Try to get license plate information if you can and remember a description of the vehicle.
Hit-and-run in California can be either a misdemeanor or a felony:
- Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run: When someone leaves the scene of an accident with property damage, but no one has been injured. If a property owner cannot be located at the time of the accident, the at-fault driver is allowed to leave a note with contact information for the owner.
- Felony Hit-and-Run: When someone leaves the scene of an accident in which another person has been injured or killed. Since there are people directly involved in the accident, leaving a note is not sufficient. Felony hit-and-run is currently punishable by up to four years in state prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
If the perpetrator is located by law enforcement, any criminal charges filed against him or her will not lead to compensation for pain and suffering to you, the victim. You must file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
Hit-and-runs are not a uniquely Californian problem, but we do see many more in our populated areas than the rest of the country does. Los Angeles County in particular experiences a hit-and-run crash every 18 minutes, according to data analyzed by NBC4.
After any car accident, you need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to represent you and make sure your rights are protected. Call NordstrandBlack PC at (805) 962-2022 for a free consultation. We will examine all the evidence in your case to determine how to get the maximum compensation for you.