Hit-and-Run Accident Attorneys in OC
In California, as in every other state in America, fleeing the scene of a collision you were in is against the law. Sadly, many drivers still drive away from the accidents they cause, even when their victims have been severely inured and are in desperate need of help. There are a variety of reasons why drivers commit this negligent, cruel, and illegal act, but none of them are good or honest ones. Hit-and-run victims deserve help, and that is what we want to provide.
If you have been the victim of a hit-and-run in California, you have options under the law. While your situation may seem hopeless right now, with the right legal advice, you may be able to recover financially from your accident. Our Orange County car accident lawyers at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie can help you do just that. For skilled, compassionate advice, call our office at (949) 752-7474 today.
The greatest difficulty of hit-and-runs is the fact that the at-fault driver fled the scene of the accident, meaning victims are unsure who exactly caused their injuries. That is why, if you have been the victim of a hit-and-run, it is essential to gather as much information as you can and stay in contact with your insurance company and law enforcement. The more details you can give the police officer, the better. If you can do so, provide information about:
- Vehicle make, model, and color
- Any unique or identifying marks on the vehicle, such as bumper stickers or dents
- Driver’s appearance (if you got a look at the driver)
- License plate number (if you were able to see it in whole or in part)
- Circumstances surrounding the crash
There may be evidence left behind, even after the hit-and-run driver has fled the scene. Evidence may include a paint scrape at the point of impact, or a piece broken off from the body of the other car. If any eyewitnesses are nearby, get their contact information for corroborating testimony. If you are able, take pictures of your vehicle and the accident scene.
Every crash has the chance to cause severe injuries to those involved. Hit-and-run accidents are no different. Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents have the added factor that the person who could offer help has fled the scene, leaving victims alone and potentially seriously injured. This increases the odds that victims do not get the help they need as soon as they need it, creating even worse damage, such as with:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Fractured bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Organ damage
- Severe burns
- Limb loss
- Internal bleeding
- Facial trauma
Recovering from any of these is incredibly difficult, and even if you do fully heal, you could be left with lifelong disabilities that severely impact your ability to live your day-to-day life. For example, if you have a physical job, losing a leg could leave you unable to work, on top of ruining your hobbies, such as jogging, taking your dog for a walk, or even just going for a quick drive.
However, there are many hit-and-run victims who never get the chance to recover. Wrongful death is, sadly, a common outcome of hit-and-run collisions. To suddenly lose a loved one is traumatic, especially when their death was caused by someone else’s negligence. Thankfully, by filing a wrongful death claim, family members can recover compensation. On top of that, hit-and-runs are illegal, so there are both civil and criminal consequences that can be brought against the at-fault driver.
If the at-fault driver in a hit-and-run only caused property damage, then it is considered a misdemeanor crime under California law. A misdemeanor hit-and-run carries several penalties, including up to six months in jail, probation, a fine of up to $1,000, and possible restitution to the victim.
However, that misdemeanor quickly becomes a felony if the at-fault driver caused injury to, or killed, a person. If the at-fault driver is convicted, then he or she could be facing a state prison sentence of two to four years, and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000, or both, as well as having to pay restitution to the victim or the victim’s family.
In addition to criminal penalties, there may be consequences for hit-and-run drivers in civil court. Victims have the right to claim for damages and are likely to recover punitive damages. These additional damages are designed to punish a defendant for acting in a particularly egregious manner or intentionally or recklessly causing harm to another, to deter similar conduct in the future, and to provide victims and their families with the compensation they need to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. However, filing a claim can be difficult if the at-fault driver is never found.
Under state law, you may file a claim for up to two years after a hit-and-run. Of course, the sooner you submit a claim, the sooner you will be compensated. On top of that, the faster you file a claim, the more evidence you will have to work with, as evidence can be lost if enough time passes. Witnesses forget things, security footage is erased, and cars are repaired and cleaned. It is in your best interest to file a claim as quickly as possible.
Of course, a hit-and-run is unique in that the at-fault driver may never be identified. This means filing a claim may not be a straightforward process. But there are other ways to recover compensation, even when you are unsure who was to blame for your accident.
- Collision coverage should help cover the damage to your car.
- Med Pay or your own health insurance can cover your injuries, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If the at-fault driver is found, a lawsuit may reimburse these costs.
- If the hit-and-run driver is never identified, you can still file a claim against your UM/UIM motorist coverage, but it may not cover property damage. If you have uninsured motorist property damage insurance, it can cover your car after a hit-and-run.
- If the driver is found, you can file a claim against the driver’s liability coverage. Your auto insurance company may have a lien on any damages awarded to you for money it paid out previously, under the right of subrogation.
- If the at-fault driver is found but does not have insurance, you can file a claim against your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
However, going through these options can be overwhelming, especially if you are recovering from an injury or mourning the loss of a loved one. You may be unsure where to start, how to tackle the gathering of evidence, how to fill out the mountains of paperwork, and whether to argue with insurance adjusters. Thankfully, with a skilled attorney by your side, you won’t have to worry about any of that.
In a civil lawsuit, you may be able to recover out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance, as well as compensation for pain and suffering and punitive damages. Contact Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie at (949) 752-7474 for sound legal guidance if you have been the victim of this crime. Our team of trial lawyers will take every legal action necessary to help you seek full compensation for all damages, through every source.
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