Southern California Hit and Run Accidents
Leaving the scene of a car accident is not only an irresponsible thing to do, but it is also illegal under California law. In California, just as in all other states, when involved in an injury or fatal accident, drivers are required to stop immediately, call the authorities, exchange information and offer assistance to injured victims. A large number of Southern California car accidents, however, involve drivers who flee the scene of the crash for fear of being arrested or held accountable for the accident. Not all hit-and-run drivers are found by the authorities and many victims are often left helpless with medical bills and a host of other expenses.
Under California Vehicle Code 20001 (a): "The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident." Despite this law being strictly enforced in Southern California, the number of local drivers who choose to leave the scene without stopping is staggering.
California and Nationwide Hit-and-Run Statistics
Hit-and-run accidents happen throughout the country but they are particularly common in Los Angeles. LA Weekly reported recently that about 20,000 hit-and-run accidents occur each year in Los Angeles resulting in 4,000 injuries or deaths. In the year 2009, about 48 percent of all Los Angeles car accidents involved a driver who fled the scene. Nationally, only 11 percent of accidents involve a hit-and-run driver.
Nationwide, hit-and-run accidents are, however, becoming more common each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 1,274 hit-and-run accidents in the year 2009, 1,393 in 2010 and 1,449 in 2011. While traffic deaths overall decreased 4.5 percent from the year 2009 to 2011, hit-and-run deaths actually increased by 13.7 percent.
It is helpful and necessary to aid the authorities in apprehending the driver responsible for the accident. Write down everything you remember about the accident as soon as possible. Take detailed notes regarding the color of the vehicle, the license plate number and what the driver looked like. Were passengers in the car? Did the vehicle sustain damage in the crash? What direction did the vehicle head in as it fled the scene? The answers to these questions can help the authorities find the driver responsible for the accident.
It is also helpful to get contact information from anyone who may have witnessed the accident. Write down the name of the shops in the area that may have security cameras that could have recorded the accident. Tell the police everything you remember about the car and maintain contact with the investigator in charge of your case.
When Hit-and-Run Drivers are Arrested
Hit-and-run drivers in Southern California can face serious criminal penalties for their wrongdoing. Their arrest and potential conviction will not, however, automatically result in compensation for your losses. You may have to file a personal injury claim in civil court to get the support you need. A successful car accident claim against a hit-and-run driver may result in support for your pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, loss of earning potential and other related damages. In order to receive support for these damages, you will have to document your losses and prove how the accident occurred. Proving negligence may be relatively simpler if the driver has been charged or convicted of leaving the scene, but you will still have to show how the driver's negligence contributed to your suffering.
When Hit-and-Run Drivers are Not Found
A large number of hit-and-run drivers are never apprehended. Therefore, if you have been hurt in a hit-and-run accident in Southern California, it is possible that the driver responsible for your suffering will never be found. You may not have an opportunity to file a claim against the hit-and-run driver, but that should not discourage you from learning about your legal options. For example, you may be able to seek support from your own insurance provider. Uninsured motorist coverage is designed to provide support to victims of drivers who have inadequate coverage and to victims of hit-and-run drivers. It is important to understand the coverage you have and to discuss your options with a car accident attorney who has recent experience handling hit-and-run cases.
Legal Help is Available to You
If you or a family member has been injured in a Southern California hit-and-run crash, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Bisnar | Chase can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Our law firm even has a Hit-and-Run Reward Program, which offers a $1,000 reward for every tip that leads to the arrest and felony conviction of a hit-and-run driver. For more information, please visit www.hitandrunreward.com. To obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights, please contact us at 949-203-3814. We always offer free consultations and comprehensive case evaluations.