Being the victim of a hit and run driver can be both terrifying and frustrating. It’s against the law for anyone involved in an accident not to stop and identify themselves to the other parties, even if they didn’t cause the accident. But if they did cause the accident, which in turn caused injuries or death, the consequences could be graver. Read on for what you need to know if you’re the victim of a hit and run driver.
What Rights Do I Have as the Victim of a Hit and Run Driver in Fresno?
As in any personal injury case, the victim of a hit and run driver has the right to pursue damages and legal action if they’ve been injured, had property damaged, or lost a loved one due to the accident.
However, how those damages might be awarded depends on whether or not the driver is located and identified. If the driver is found and is determined to have been at fault and left the scene, the victim can pursue damages through the driver’s insurance company. The victim can also pursue a lawsuit if the injuries and damage are severe. If the driver was uninsured, the victim can file a claim through their uninsured motorist coverage on their auto insurance policy–if they have it. That type of coverage is optional, although recommended for just this type of situation.
What Needs to Be Proven in a Hit and Run Case?
Essentially, four things need to be proven for a hit and run case to be successful.
- The defendant (the person charged with the crime) was driving and caused an accident.
- The accident caused injuries or death.
- The driver knew they caused an accident.
- The driver failed to stop and identify themselves to the victims or police.
If the hit and run driver is found, they’re likely going to contest as many of those as possible, especially the knowledge that they caused an accident. At the very least, they may try to convince the victim that the case is worthless and that they should settle for a small amount. That’s why it’s vital to have an experienced hit and run accident attorney on your side who knows how to pursue these cases and what defenses they’ll likely present.
What Are the Consequences for a Driver Convicted in a Hit and Run Accident?
The consequences can be severe, which may be one of the reasons a driver panics and leaves the scene of an accident. They also depend on whether the driver is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, fines range from $1,000-10,000, and the potential for jail time.
- Misdemeanor. California charges misdemeanors in hit and run cases where only property damage occurred (including cases where another vehicle was damaged, but the other driver wasn’t injured), not injuries to a human. These cases can result in the minimum fine, up to six months in jail, or both. The driver may also be required to pay for repairing the damage the hit and run caused. There may be up to three years of probation and the possibility of 2 points on the driver’s record.
- Felony. A hit and run that injures or kills another person is a felony in California. The other person could be the driver or passenger of another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist. The consequences start with fines of up to $10,000, 16 months to 3 years in state prison, or 2-4 years in state prison for causing serious injuries or death. The penalties may be much more severe if this is not a first conviction. There will also likely be probation and points on the driver’s driving record.
What Should I Do if I Was Injured in a Hit and Run Accident?
Call the police to file a police report. If you have any information about the vehicle that left the scene of the accident, make sure police have that right away, as they may still be able to catch the driver.
While waiting for the police to arrive, if you’re physically able, collect the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses to the accident. Look for commercial or residential buildings that might have security cameras that catch video of the accident.
Once the report is filed, see a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. There are injuries, including serious ones, that don’t show symptoms at first. If left untreated, they can worsen and even become life-threatening.
Then call Tomassian, Pimentel & Shapazian as soon as possible at 559-277-7300 to set up a consultation. Hit and run accidents can be complex to navigate. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorneys can guide you through the process and ensure no stone is left unturned in terms of pursuing the errant driver and getting you the best possible outcomes.
If the driver is identified, their insurance company or attorney may try to contact you. Don’t engage with them. Their goal is to reduce or remove any liability for their client by getting you to say something that could be interpreted as taking fault for the accident. They may also try to convince you to accept a much lower settlement than you may be entitled to. Don’t respond to calls, emails, or letters. Instead, forward them to your attorney.