Motorists flee an accident scene for various reasons. But no matter how genuine the excuse may sound, failure to remain at the scene is prohibited in California. The driver may bear severe consequences, whether or not he/she was responsible for the crash.
The other people involved in the incident need an Orange County personal injury attorney with extensive experience to advise on what to do or not do. If you are a victim of the crash, you can file a lawsuit to receive restitution or file a personal injury case for compensation.
How Will I Know if the Hit-and-Run is a Misdemeanor?
Perpetrators of hit-and-run accidents may endure less severe punitive action if the offense fits the description of the California Vehicle Code 20002. The driver needs to have:
- Left the scene
- Failed to identify themselves to the other people involved in the accident
- Damaged another person’s property
- Known that they had been involved in an accident and property had been damaged
If they are found guilty of the offense, the driver may:
- Pay a fine of not more than $1,000
- Lose their freedom for not more than six months
- Pay the fine and stay in county jail
- Two points on their driving record
- Three years on probation
- Restitution for the damage on your property
What Can I Do When the Other Motorist Leaves the Scene?
Many people wonder what to do once the other driver flees from the scene of the accident. It is crucial first to move your car to a safe location and call 911. While medical assistance is on the way, it is important to note details of the hit-and-run incident.
Some of the information that could help the police are:
- What happened before, during, and after the crash.
- The fleeing driver’s appearance.
- Their license plate number.
- Identifying or unique marks on the car, for instance, dents or bumper stickers.
- The car color, model, and make.
Even if the motorist is already gone, they can leave behind pieces of evidence that can be beneficial to your case. Broken-off pieces of their car’s body or a paint scrape at the point of impact are essential leads for finding the culprit. Remember to document the scene and your vehicle with pictures because they can significantly impact your case’s success.
Can the Driver Defend Him/Herself Against the Hit-and-Run Misdemeanor?
Understanding how perpetrators of hit-and-run misdemeanors defend themselves is critical. This knowledge helps your hit-and-run accident lawyer based in Orange County to put together a winning personal injury case. Here are a few common defenses:
- The driver did not realize that an accident had occurred. If the crash was minor, drivers could claim that they were not aware of it. This defense is usually meant to convince the judge that they did not disregard the rules of Vehicle Code 20002.
- There was no damage. The accused person can also claim that they did not notice any damage when they left the scene. For instance, if the car’s breaks failed and they hit your fence before reversing and leaving.
- Only their car was damaged. The driver’s defense team may want charges dropped if the damage only affected their client’s vehicle. This can happen in a parking lot when a driver bumps into another and leaves.
Can the Hit-and-Run Driver Be Charged with More than One Offense?
People sometimes flee from an accident scene because they are afraid of being reprimanded for another offense. In such instances, the driver can be convicted for hit-and-run along with the other crime.
Driving Without a License – California Vehicle Code 12500
The driver’s punishment might increase if he had not renewed his/her driving license or if he/she had failed to obtain a California license. Notably, a license is only mandatory if the person had not been excused from the requirement or if the driver was driving on the highway.
Driving Under the Influence – California Vehicle Code 23152
The driver that left the scene could be punished further if he or she had taken alcohol or drugs to the extent that his/her judgment was compromised. Notably, the magnitude of the penalty will depend on whether the DUI was their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or a subsequent.
When is a Hit-and-Run Offense Considered a Felony?
According to the hit-and-run statute, the offense graduates to a felony if the driver left the scene of an accident where there was more than property damage – people were injured, or they died. In California Penal Code 20001, situations with mild injuries can be punished as a demeanor, while serious ones, including death, are felonies. An Orange County car accident lawyer can help you decide how best to file your case.
If the injuries are not severe, the driver might:
- Stay in a county jail for up to a year.
- Part with between $1,000 and $10,000 in fines.
When the injuries were so severe or resulted in some permanent disability or death, the accused can:
- Pay a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000.
- Stay in state prison for between 16 months and four years.
What Kind of Insurance Covers Hit-and-Run Accidents in California?
Different car insurance types cover different things, and an Orange County car accident lawyer can advise you on where to claim. The comprehensive coverage cannot cover the damage done to the vehicle, but the collision coverage will. Whether you were negligent or not, MedPay can cover the damages.
If the police manage to trace the driver that left the scene, a personal injury attorney in Orange County can help you present a claim against their liability coverage. You may try getting compensation from your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage – bodily injury will be taken care of regardless, and property damage if you know the driver.
An Experienced Professional Offering Sound Legal Guidance
Making a claim after a hit-and-run incident is relatively straightforward, but receiving damages is never easy. Insurance companies will not give in to your claim without a fight. The insurer’s legal team is always ready to challenge your claim and bar you from receiving compensation.
Without your own experienced and skilled legal team, it is easy to get short-changed and receive less compensation than you deserve. Contact our award-winning Santa Ana hit and run attorneys through (714) 406-0998 for assistance and guidance with various types of injury claims.