A hit and run accident is where a vehicle hits a person or another vehicle and the driver knowingly leaves the scene without providing their information. This is a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 20002. If the hit and run results in another person being injured or killed, it’s actually considered a felony. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t pursue a claim for compensation because the car that hit you got away. Review your claim with an Orange County hit and run accident attorney.
At Crockett Law Group, our lawyers can help to make sure that you get the money you need and deserve for your injuries caused by a hit and run accident. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with a car accident lawyer in Orange County.
Table of Contents
What Are the Procedures for Hit and Run Accidents in California?
Hit and run accidents are all too common in Orange County if you ask me. In 2017, 1,307 hit and run accident victims were killed or injured in Orange County. That’s why you should know which steps to take should you or a loved one have the misfortune of being a victim of a hit-and-run accident.
Insurance companies also operate under the expectation that everyone who buys their insurance will read their entire policy from front to back, which is probably well over one-hundred pages. Nobody does that, though. So, hopefully, what you read here will help give you some tidbits of knowledge that you can use later on.
First of all, it’s wise to report the hit and run to police as soon as possible because sometimes they’re able to catch the offender and obtain their insurance information. People flee the scene of an accident for various reasons, but often it’s because they’ve been driving under the influence and want to avoid being apprehended by the police.
But it’s not just “wise” to report the hit & run to the police, it’s also imperative that you do so. If you intend on pursuing an uninsured motorist claim under your own insurance policy, then you’re required to report the hit and run accident to law enforcement within 24 hours of the accident or else coverage could be denied.
If you’re lucky enough to locate the hit and run driver but they turn out to be uninsured, then you need to obtain an Uninsured Motorist Certificate from the California DMV before you can pursue an uninsured motorist claim through your own insurance carrier. Places like Orange County have larger populations, and with larger populations come more hit and run crashes. That’s why it’s so important that you have a solid understanding of these deadlines and procedures.
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work in California Hit and Run Accidents?
If you purchased Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM), you may still be able to recover for damages for your hit & run injuries. California law requires insurance companies to offer UIM coverage and make its customers sign a waiver if they decline it. This will cover you if you are in an accident with a driver that fled the scene of the accident.
When people find out that their own insurance company will be paying out money for an uninsured motorist claim, they get worried that their insurance rates will go up as a result. Insurance rates are already very high in California, so I get it. But, your insurance rates will not increase simply because you invoked the uninsured motorist coverage you’ve been paying monthly premiums for.
California’s Proposition 103 is the reason why. Prop 103 is a consumer protection law that was passed in 1988, limits insurance companies to only considering the following factors when determining insurance rates:
- The driver’s safety record
- Where the car is parked at night
- The age of the driver
- The number of miles driven annually
- The driver’s years of experience
- Whether the driver was ever at fault for causing an accident
You should know that Proposition 103 has been revised in recent years to allow for several additional factors for increasing rates, but these factors do not usually impact uninsured motorist claims.
The first is non-payments or late payment of premiums; the second is fraud or material misrepresentation; and the last is a “substantial increase in the hazard insured against.” These factors are unlikely to impact the prohibition against raising rates after an uninsured motorist claim unless the victim has made many claims within a very short period of time, giving rise to the implication of fraud.
Can I Sue When Involved in a Hit and Run?
If you’re able to locate the hit and run driver, then yes you can sue them. However, in most cases, the hit and run driver can’t be located or doesn’t have any insurance. In that case, it makes the most sense to pursue a claim through your own insurance carrier… if you purchased Uninsured Motorist Coverage.
If you do open an uninsured motorist claim through your own insurance company and they fail to offer you a reasonable amount of money for the settlement, you have a right to arbitrate your claim against them. Notice that we said “arbitrate” and not “litigate.” California Vehicle Code §11580.2(f) requires that when an injured person can’t agree on a settlement amount with their insurance company for an uninsured motorist claim, they have to submit the matter to arbitration.
Arbitration operates very similarly to litigation. Like litigation, arbitration is decided by a neutral third-party that makes a binding decision on your injury claim. But litigation occurs when you’re pursuing compensation from another person for your injuries, whereas arbitration occurs when you’re pursuing reimbursement from your own auto insurance carrier. Arbitration actually tends to put the victim in a stronger position than in litigation because usually, it’s quicker and less expensive.
It’s important for you to know that your insurance company has a duty to negotiate your uninsured motorist claim in good faith. If they fail to do so—for example, by making an unreasonably low settlement offer—then you can sue them for “bad faith.” However, you can only do this after getting an award at arbitration that establishes the value of your case is much higher than what the insurance company offered.
Call an Orange County Hit and Run Accident Attorney Today
Hit and run accidents are complicated to handle from start to finish. The hit-and-run must promptly be reported to the law enforcement authorities, and you must obtain proof of no insurance for the at-fault driver before your claim can be negotiated. Insurance companies heavily investigate these claims due to the high frequency of fraud, so great care must be taken to present all of the facts and evidence properly. This is the type of case where having solid representation is a must.
Contact Crockett Law Group immediately after your hit and run accident if you’ve been injured. Our Orange County personal injury lawyers know how these complex cases need to be handled. You can rest and focus on getting better while we handle the legal details of your accident. Call us today to learn more.