Any car accident can be a frustrating and stressful experience, especially if you are not the one responsible for causing it. This is especially true in hit-and-run cases when drivers who cause accidents attempt to flee the scene to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Hit-and-run is a criminal offense in California. A driver who has been injured or who has sustained financial losses from hit-and-run should know what to do after such an accident.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run You Witnessed
Some hit-and-runs occur in the heat of the moment. A driver hits another driver and flees before exchanging information and insurance details with the other driver. California state law requires drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury and/or property damage to remain at the scene of the accident until first responders arrive. When a driver commits a hit-and-run, it is usually because of three reasons:
- Panic or shock.
- Lack of or inadequate auto insurance.
- Refusal to accept responsibility for their actions.
Whatever the case may be, if you experience a hit-and-run, try to retain as many details about the vehicle and the driver as possible.
Depending on how and where your accident occurred, you may not be able to ascertain the make and model of the vehicle or its license plate number. However, any bits of information you can accurately obtain in this brief window will be valuable to future legal action. Your description will help the police locate the at-fault driver. For example, you may not be able to exactly recall the make and model. Still, if you remember the color, vehicle type, and perhaps the first few letters and numbers of the license plate, this could be all the police need to locate the driver responsible for your hit-and-run.
After a hit-and-run accident, your first priority is the same as it should be after any accident – your personal health and safety. Check yourself for injuries and contact 911 to report the accident if no one else has already done so. When first responders arrive, answer their questions truthfully and provide them with as much information as possible about your experience. The details you provide will be included in their police report, which you will need later to take legal action against the hit-and-run driver.
What If I Didn’t See the Hit-and-Run Happen?
It’s not uncommon for people to park their vehicles and then return to find them damaged by a driver who has fled the scene without leaving so much as a note to take responsibility. In this situation, the victimized driver can feel helpless and left to handle the resulting damages out of their own pocket. However, this may not be entirely true, and it is still possible the victim could find the hit-and-run driver and hold them responsible.
A nearby security camera from a local business may have captured the hit-and-run, or a nearby eyewitness may have seen what happened. Report the hit-and-run immediately. Take photos of the damage to your vehicle and the area in which the accident occurred. An experienced Riverside car accident lawyer can also direct you toward additional evidence that may help you identify the driver responsible for the hit-and-run.
Penalties for Hit-and-Run
Once a hit-and-run driver is positively identified and located, they will likely face criminal prosecution in addition to civil liability for your damages. Hit-and-run violations can be either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the offender’s behavior and the results of the incident. For example, if a hit-and-run resulted in serious injury or death to the victim, the offender will likely face felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter charges. A conviction on these charges could easily amount to years in prison, very heavy fines, loss of driving privileges, and civil liability for the victim’s damages.
Even when a hit-and-run qualifies as a misdemeanor, the penalties can still be severe. It’s likely for the offender to face up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000 in addition to civil liabilities. A hit-and-run victim has the right to claim their medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering in a civil action. The judge overseeing the case is likely to award restitution or punitive damages to the plaintiff along with their compensatory damages.
Secure Legal Representation Now
If you have been victimized by a hit-and-run in the Riverside area, you must work quickly if you want to be sure to recover compensation for your losses. The right Riverside car accident lawyer will be instrumental in building your case and securing your recovery, so make sure you choose a legal representative with solid experience handling hit-and-run cases like yours. Contact Peach & Weathers today if you are ready for a case review from a compassionate and reliable Riverside car accident attorney.