When most people think of automobile accidents, they immediately consider civil lawsuits, personal injuries, and automobile liability insurance. Yet, some motor vehicle accidents may not involve a negligent party. Hit-and-run accidents are unfortunate events that may lead to a party being convicted of a crime.
Hit-and-run accidents are common throughout the United States. California is one of the most populous states in the nation, and hit-and-run accidents have long-lasting effects on all parties involved. The criminal aspect of hit-and-run accidents is associated with what occurs after a hit-and-run accident. After an accident, a hit-and-run driver typically does not:
- Offer any type of assistance to those who suffered injuries due to the accident.
- Share contact details and automobile liability insurance information.
- Make a complete stop at the accident scene.
The driver who flees the accident scene is the individual who can face criminal charges. Sometimes it is possible for a passenger to face criminal charges for participating in a hit-and-run accident. A passenger in an automobile accident may have convinced the individual driver to leave the scene of the crash. Also, the passenger may have taken the wheel and driven the automobile away from the accident scene. Under these circumstances, the passenger may face criminal liability.
Hit-and-run accidents often cause serious bodily injury or death. Suffering injuries during a hit-and-run accident can also be humiliating due to being left alone at the accident scene. Some individuals may be too injured to call 911 to report the accident. Unfortunately, many injured parties sustain more severe injuries due to being left at the accident scene.
Hit-and-run accidents may occur when two automobiles strike each other. However, hit-and-run accidents may also affect the following:
- Real property and personal property
- Parked automobiles
No One Is Near When the Hit-and-Run Accident Occurs
An individual who strikes a house, a parked automobile, or some other type of property may be unable to identify the owner of the property. Drivers who are involved in these types of accidents are required to leave written notice containing their contact details for the property owner. Also, the driver must contact a law enforcement agency and file a police report documenting the accident.
Knowledge is an important variable associated with hit-and-run accident cases. Drivers must have knowledge of the accident to face criminal charges for not offering assistance, giving contact information, or stopping at the accident scene.
Drivers who are not responsible for the accident can still be charged with a hit-and-run criminal offense. A driver may not have violated any traffic laws but struck a pedestrian who was jaywalking across a busy intersection. The driver has to offer assistance, provide contact details, and stop at the accident scene.
Statutes contain the provisions that determine what actions make up a hit-and-run offense. In some jurisdictions, a driver can only be convicted of a hit-and-run offense if the accident happened on a public road. Some jurisdictions have more ambiguous statutes.
Many courts have formulated a general principle that if a particular statute does not mention a public road, then hit-and-run drivers can face criminal charges for hit-and-run accidents that occur on private roads. Residential driveways and commercial parking lots are examples of private property.
Depending on the facts of a specific hit-and-run accident, an individual who was not behind the wheel may be convicted of a hit-and-run offense. A passenger in a vehicle may begin moving the steering wheel and move the automobile away from the accident scene. This passenger can be convicted of a hit-and-run offense. Also, a passenger who convinces a driver to abandon the accident scene may also face criminal charges and convictions.
Penalties Associated with Hit-and-Run Accident
Each state has its own penal code. Specific code sections within the individual penal codes address hit-and-run accidents and corresponding penalties. Many states have statutes that contain harsh sanctions for those convicted of hit-and-run offenses. Prosecutors may charge hit-and-run offenses as misdemeanors or felonies based on the facts and circumstances of the individual cases.
Hit-and-run accidents that cause serious bodily injury or death will generally be charged as felonies. Some states charge hit-and-run offenses that cause only serious property damage as felonies. However, under most circumstances, if no one suffered an injury or was killed during the accident, the hit-and-run offense will be charged as a misdemeanor.
Individuals who face felony or misdemeanor convictions related to hit-and-run accidents may have to pay significant fines and serve terms of imprisonment. Misdemeanor offenses often lead to jail sentences; felony offenses typically lead to prison sentences.
In California, felony hit-and-run offenses may be punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000. Misdemeanor hit-and-run offenses may be punishable by six months in a county jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.
Hit-and-Run Accidents and Civil Lawsuits
Automobile accidents typically result in the hit-and-run driver being civilly liable for damages. Hit-and-run accidents may involve the following penalties:
- Higher automobile liability insurance costs
- Penalties and points from the department of motor vehicles
- Civil lawsuits filed by other parties who suffered injuries during the hit-and-run accident
Speaking to an experienced hit-and-run accident attorney can help you understand the differences between criminal cases and civil cases related to hit-and-run accidents. Many parties may be unaware of their legal rights and how they can seek compensation for their injuries.
Civil Damages and Hit-and-Run Accident Cases
Negligent drivers in California are liable for civil damages. The driver responsible for the hit-and-run accident may be an individual driving another automobile. A passenger in another vehicle may also be a liable party from whom you can seek financial compensation.
The claim you file is associated with the insurance company, not the individual driver. You might feel bad for asserting a claim against the driver of the vehicle in which you were a passenger. However, you should not hesitate to assert the claims you are entitled to by law.
One important caveat exists regarding hit-and-run accident cases and civil liability. If an individual was a passenger in an automobile and the driver was responsible for the hit-and-run accident, and the driver is a relative, the passenger may be barred from asserting a legal claim under the automobile insurance policy.
Family members are considered insured persons under automobile insurance policies. The passenger will therefore be unable to seek financial compensation under automobile liability coverage. The passenger may still have the option to file claims for medical treatment if that is an option under the insurance policy.
A hit-and-run driver may not have been covered under automobile liability insurance. Also, a hit-and-run driver may be underinsured. An injured party may assert an insurance claim through underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist coverage.
Damages Associated with Hit-and-Run Accidents
It is important to call law enforcement as soon as you can after suffering injuries during a hit-and-run accident. Emergency personnel and law enforcement officers will attempt to locate and identify the hit-and-run driver responsible for causing your injuries. Consulting a hit-and-run accident lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and the options available to you for seeking financial compensation for your injuries. Seeking medical care is imperative, and you must also work with professionals to identify the hit-and-run driver. Developing a personal injury case takes time, but it can be difficult for an attorney to help you if you do not discover who caused your injuries.
Settlement negotiations are an important aspect of all personal injury cases, including hit-and-run accident cases. Calculating damages and seeking financial compensation for your injuries can take longer than expected. Injured parties can pursue monetary compensation for the following types of damages:
- Lost companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental and physical disabilities
- Permanent disfigurement
- Mental suffering
- Severe emotional distress
- Decreased earning potential
- Lost earnings
- Medical bills
Hit-and-Run Accidents: Filing Police Reports
Although you may feel angry and frustrated after a hit-and-run accident, it is important to call law enforcement and file a police report. The following are the most important reasons for filing a police report after a hit-and-run accident:
- Having a copy of the police report will be necessary for filing an insurance claim with your insurance company. You must submit the report even if your claim only involves automobile repair bills.
- Police reports are necessary to file a claim with the hit-and-run driver’s insurance company
- Police reports provide a written record of a motor vehicle accident. The fact that the other driver abandoned the accident scene will be noted in the police report.
- Witnesses may have noticed the hit-and-run driver’s license plate number. The police report can help law enforcement officers locate and identify the hit-and-run driver.
Call Us Today to Speak to a California Hit-and-Run Accident Attorney
Arash Law and its team are operated and managed by Arash Khorsandi, Esq. Contact us today at (888) 488-1391 to schedule a free consultation. Our award-winning car accident lawyers have decades of experience representing clients in hit-and-run accident cases. We have recovered over $500 million for clients throughout California.
We serve clients in San Francisco, Riverside, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. Our knowledgeable hit-and-run accident lawyers can help you with every aspect of your hit-and-run accident case.