Misdemeanor or Felony?
Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime, and the driver can face severe penalties if they are caught. Under California law, it is a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident where property damage was caused without identifying yourself to the other drivers who were involved. If the hit-and-run results in injury to another person, it is a felony to leave the scene of the accident.
In most hit-and-run cases the other driver will flee because they are unlicensed, uninsured, or both. Ultimately they cause more trouble for themselves by fleeing the accident than if they would have cooperated in the first place. At Russell & Lazarus APC, we regularly fight for clients who have been involved in serious accidents and we have numerous tactics to ensure that the responsible party compensates you for your injuries and property damage.
Steps You Should Take after a Hit-and-run Accident Occurs
According to the California Highway Patrol in 2005, there were 14,500 hit-and-run accidents in California alone. There are thousands of vehicles on the road every day in Orange County and, as every Southern Californian knows, traffic accidents are a fact of life. There are several important steps to take immediately after the accident:
- Check for injuries and call 911 if immediate medical care is necessary.
- Call the police and report the accident. Unless somebody has been injured the police probably will not issue a full report, but it is still important to notify them of the accident.
- Exchange insurance and other contact information with the other driver if it is safe to do so.
- Take photos of the scene and any property damage. If the other driver has fled this will be difficult, but it is still advisable to document the situation as much as possible.
- Contact your insurance carrier and report the accident.
- Call Russell & Lazarus for a complimentary case consultation!
In the event that you receive a call from the other driver’s insurance company, don’t give them a statement until you have consulted with a Newport Beach car accident lawyer. Depending on the circumstances, the adjuster may try to twist your words and use them against you.
Protect Yourself from Irresponsible Drivers by Purchasing Uninsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
In California, drivers are required to carry minimum liability insurance in the amount of $15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per accident. In ideal circumstances, the person who causes an accident will have a valid insurance policy with limits that are adequate enough to cover your property damage and medical expenses. Unfortunately, in many cases the other driver’s policy is not sufficient to cover your expenses. In hit-and-run cases even if the other driver has insurance, you won’t know because they have fled the scene.
Pros and Cons Of Arbitration
Many plaintiffs in a personal injury case think that rushing into arbitration is a way towards a quick settlement. However, as your skilled Newport Beach Car Accident Lawyer will explain, there are pros and cons on both sides of the arbitration issue. After reviewing the options with your lawyer, you might discover that arbitration is the way to go. Just make sure you get all the facts first.
What We Can Do
Our car accident attorney in Orange County may still be able to track down the responsible party, even with only minimal facts. If you have any information about the other driver–even just a license plate number–we may be able to find the responsible insurance carrier or the driver’s address through the Department of Motor Vehicles’s database. Once we have a way to contact the responsible driver, we can begin an insurance claim on your behalf.
In the event that we cannot locate the whereabouts or identity of the other driver, a Newport Beach car accident lawyer may be able to assist you with an uninsured motorist claim against your own insurance company. Many people have this coverage on their automobile insurance policy and don’t even realize it. UIM is an incredibly valuable resource to have, and we highly recommend that you speak with your insurance agent to protect yourself in the event of a hit-and-run accident or other altercation with an uninsured motorist. This form of insurance is quite affordable, and your rates should not go up if you have to use it. Insurance agents should recommend uninsured coverage and collision coverage as well as “gap” insurance if your vehicle is financed. It may seem more expensive, but you are protecting yourself and your family.
Filing an Insurance Claim
If you have reported the accident to your insurance, they will already have a claim open. After your case consultation, we will do everything we can to identify and locate the responsible party. Our attorneys will file a claim with their insurance company and fight to make sure you are fully compensated. In the event that the other person is uninsured or cannot be identified, we can answer all of your questions about suing the defendant directly to recover for your injuries. We may be able to pursue an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim with your insurance if necessary.
Call Russell & Lazarus APC today for a free hit-and-run case consultation a Newport Beach car accident lawyer. We can be reached at (949) 851-0222 or toll free at (855) 851-2400.