[2021 Update]: In early 2020, a bill that was intended to close a California hit and run loophole was introduced to congress. The bill, AB-582 (also known as Gavin’s Law), would have introduced harsher penalties for those who left the scene of a fatal hit and run accident. AB-582 was introduced to the senate last fall, but fell one vote short of passing, leaving hit and run California law largely unchanged for the time being.
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An accident is classified as a hit-and-run when a motor vehicle causes a traffic collision involving a human being, another car, or someone’s property, and the driver of the colliding vehicle fails to stop to offer assistance, leave contact information, or report the occurrence of the accident to the police.
Statutes on hit and run accidents vary from one state to another. According to California Vehicle Code 20002 VC, in a hit and run accident the prosecution is challenged to prove beyond reasonable doubt the following factors:
- A traffic collision occurred when an individual was behind the wheel driving
- The collision resulted to property damage belonging to someone else
- The driver had knowledge of said property damage or knew there was a high probability of property damage as result of the collision
- An individual intentionally failed to follow the duties firmly imposed by California Vehicle Code 20002 VC on what to do after an auto accident
The duties imposed by California Vehicle Code 20002 VC requires an individual involved in a car accident to:
- Stop the car immediately after a collision
- Give correct personal contact details to the other party or parties involved
- In the case of a collision where the other party isn’t on the scene, it is required to provide information such as the vehicle registration
According to research by NBC4I on hit and run crashes in California, statistical data shows that every 18 minutes a hit and run traffic collision occurs in Los Angeles County.
In 2015, according to reports from the California Highway Patrol, hit and run accidents accounted for 50% of the total accidents in the state, for an approximate total of 28,000 reported hit and run incidents. Nationwide, the American Automobile Association reported that hit and run collisions accounted for a national average of 11%.
Most hit and run collisions involve damage from hitting parked cars rather than physical injuries. In an attempt to curb incidences of hit and run accidents, the city council of Los Angeles frequently offers a $50,000 reward for information that will assist in catching and convicting hit and run drivers who cause fatalities.
10 Things to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
- Hit and run accidents are horrible situations but it’s important to try and keep your emotions contained so as to access the situation more clearly.
- If you’re the victim, avoid suggesting or admitting any fault to the occurrence of the collision, as any admission could hold you legally responsible and you could face heavy penalties or lawsuits.
- Collect as much information as possible in regards to the scene of the accident. Information on location and time of the accident could help you catch the hit and run driver.
- Take photos and videos of the collision scene.
- Take pictures and note down property damaged or injuries resulting from the collision.
- Find witnesses from the scene of the accident and note down their contact details, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Report a hit and run accident to the police as soon as possible. Ensure the police report has extensive accounts on what happened during the collision and the extent of the damages and injuries. This will help speed up your claim process.
- Inform your insurance provider of the collision and file your claim as soon as possible.
- Seek medical assistance in cases involving human beings, for both minor and fatal injuries.
- Find legal representation by speaking to a hit and run accident attorney in Los Angeles (or in the area the accident occurred).
Common Causes of Hit and Run Accidents
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Self-preservation when the driver is scared
- Road rage or aggressive driving
- Unlicensed car or driver
- Revoked or suspended licenses
- Uninsured vehicles
When is a Hit and Run a Felony or Misdemeanor?
A hit and run accident is classified as one of two offenses in California, a misdemeanor or felony.
An accident is likely to be classified as a hit and run in California if the driver:
- Fled an accident scene
- Failed to identify themselves
- Failed to leave contact information for the other party or parties involved in the accident
A misdemeanor hit and run typically focuses on property damage, while a hit and run collision often becomes a felony offense if another party is injured or dies as a result of the hit and run collision.
What Happens After a Hit and Run Accident: Consequences and Charges
A hit and run is a criminal offense with many consequences in California: For both misdemeanor and felony charges, a minimum fine of $1,000 dollars and a maximum fine of $10,000 dollars may apply, as well as the risk of being sentenced for both the penalty and jail time.
A hit and run resulting in property damage:
The consequences can include a 6 month jail term, the minimum fine, or both.
A hit and run causing non-fatal injury:
A hit and run accident resulting in injury to another party can been sentenced as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the injuries sustained, as well as a prior criminal record. A convicted individual can face up to a one year jail term for a misdemeanor offence, or a 3 year jail term for a felony offence.
A hit and run causing fatal injury or death:
The penalty for a hit and run in California determined as a misdemeanor is a minimum of a 90-day jail term, with a maximum of a four year prison term for a felony.
Leaving the scene of the crime in a case where vehicular manslaughter has been determined:
The penalty may lead to an additional, consecutive five-year jail term.
Other additional consequences may include:
- Raised premiums or canceled coverage by the insurance provider
- The addition of a minimum of two points on the driving record by the DMV
- Lawsuits from other parties involved in the accident (or the family of the deceased in the event of a fatality)
Obtaining Compensation for a Hit and Run Accident
After the hit and run investigation process California follows is resolved, the police may successfully trace the driver responsible for the hit and run collision. If that occurs, and the driver is found to possess a valid insurance policy, then you can pursue a personal injury claim for compensation as you normally would have with the insurance company.
In the case where a driver does not possess a valid insurance coverage, the compensation claim can be filed through Motor Insurers Bureau’s (MIB) Uninsured Driver Scheme. In cases where efforts to trace the driver are futile, you have the alternative of approaching MIB to help with your claim for compensation.
In most cases, however, it is recommended that victims of hit and run accidents contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Los Angeles hit and run accident attorney Maryam Parman and the lawyers at Avrek Law have over 50 years of combined experience serving personal injury victims. With over $1 Billion recovered for victims in the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada, Avrek Law is here to help. Contact us today for a free case evaluation!