Motor vehicle accidents can be very traumatic, serious incidents that can cause severe injuries and even death. After a car accident in San Diego, many victims spend thousands of dollars on medical care, suffer due to time lost from work, and experience emotional trauma. Receiving compensation after such an incident is crucial but in the case of a hit-and-run, finding the responsible party may not be possible. If you’ve suffered harm after a hit-and-run anywhere in San Diego County, if you were in a vehicle or as a pedestrian, it’s important to discuss your case with the attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case.
What is a Hit-And-Run?
Many people believe that the situation is only a hit-and-run case if the person at fault flees. However, a California court can charge a driver with a hit-and-run even if he or she is not responsible for the accident. The law defines a hit-and-run as a car accident where one party leaves the scene without stopping to identify him or herself or check if anyone needs assistance. In California, the law allows parties to leave the scene if they are seeking medical attention. For example, if you need to walk down the road to get a signal for your cell phone to call an ambulance, the court would most likely not consider it a hit-and-run.
Hit and Run San Diego Laws
The penalties for a hit-and-run are significantly more severe than the penalties for a normal car accident. Hit-and-run accidents in California can be misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances. The penalties for a misdemeanor hit-and-run in San Diego include:
• Up to six months in jail
• A fine of at least $1,000
• Compensating any damage you caused in the hit-and-run
• Up to three years of probation
• Two points on your driving record
A hit-and-run becomes a felony if another person suffered an injury in the accident. The penalties for a hit-and-run felony include a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000 and between 16 months and three years in prison, depending on the severity of the victim’s injury.
What do I do after a Hit and Run?
Step 1: Remain Calm
If you find yourself the victim of a hit-and-run, the most important thing you can do is to not freak out. The moments right after the incident can provide the most important information for your case, so be sure to keep your wits so you can recollect the information later.
Step 2: Gather as Much Information as Possible
Remember, the more information you have about the driver, the more likely you are to catch him or her. If you witness the incident, make note of identifying information, including the vehicle’s make, model, and license plate information, if possible.
Second, seek info from eyewitnesses. Ask for their contact information and note whether they took any pictures or video of the incident.
Take time to document the accident scene. Write down the date, time, and location of the accident.
Step 3: Take Pictures or Video
Photographs are excellent forms of evidence in a hit-and-run case and can be especially helpful in proving your damages to your insurance company. Insurers are often wary of hit-and-run claims, as they can be red flags for fraud. Taking photographs at the scene of the incident can help prove your story. If another vehicle’s paint is visible on your car, take photos. The more pictures you have of what happened, the better off the investigators will be in searching for the perpetrator.
Step 4: File a Police Report
In the heat of the moment, you may be tempted to chase the other driver, but this is unwise. Instead, call the SD Highway Patrol or the local jurisdiction police to the scene so they can file a report. Involving the police can improve your chances of identifying the driver and holding him or her liable for your damages.
An official police report of the incident can also serve as proof in an insurance claim. File an official accident report if the police officer doesn’t do so for you. This report should include all vital details of the accident, including the names of any eyewitnesses. In some municipalities, however, the authorities might only report to the scene if there have been injuries. If no one is injured, you’ll have to report to your nearest jurisdiction and request a report be filed.
Step 5: File an Insurance Claim
If the police cannot find the person who hit you or your vehicle, your next option for damage recovery is through your insurance company. California has minimum car insurance requirements for all citizens. This includes $5,000 in property damage, $15,000 for injury or death to one person, and $30,000 for more than one person. Hit-and-run damage coverage is not a requirement for policyholders, and the state of California mandates that you cannot use uninsured motorist coverage to cover hit-and-run claims. Instead, you must use your personal injury protection coverage, medical payments coverage, and collision coverage to provide payouts. Report your incident to your insurance company and ask if your policy carries this type of insurance.
Get in touch with your insurance company as soon as you can after an accident. The company may want to send an adjuster to the scene to gather documentation. If you’ve already left, provide the insurance company with all your information.
The insurance company will walk you through the rest of the claims process and make an offer to cover damages. In some cases, it may waive your deductible for a hit-and-run.
Step 6: Seek Compensation for Damages
If the police locate the driver of the other vehicle, you may use his or her insurance policy and the court system to pay for your vehicle damage and injuries, if applicable. If they don’t, you may wish to contact a local accident attorney to negotiate a fair settlement with your insurance company. Depending on your coverage, reporting a hit-and-run accident may result in a low-ball offer or raise your premiums. Legal representation can help secure a fair settlement.
How can the police help with a hit and run accident?
Police officers can have a very high success rate for finding the driver responsible for a hit and run. Using a vehicle make and model and even a fraction of the licensed plate number, they are quickly able to find the driver registered to that vehicle. They can also use elements from the scene of the crime, like paint or vehicle debris to help in the identification. They can also utilize street cameras or business security cameras to catch the perpetrator in the act. It’s important to contact the authorities immediately after the incident so that the San Diego police has the best shot for finding the suspect.
How do I Pay for My Medical Bills?
If you’ve been injured in a hit-and-run, your insurance policy should cover your medical bills. If it doesn’t pay the bills in full, it may be wise to seek a consultation from a personal injury attorney. Don’t pay the price for someone else’s negligence – seek legal help.
San Diego Hit And Run Attorney Near Me
If you suffered an injury in a hit-and-run case in San Diego, you deserve compensation. Contact the San Diego accident attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP for experienced and determined representation in your hit-and-run claim. Call them today! (619) 295-0035