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Hit-and-Run Accidents: What Are the Victims’ Rights and Options?

Despite the laws intended to ensure that people stop at the scene of an accident, there are still those who fail to do so. When this occurs, the person or people who were the victims of a hit and run may, in some cases, experience significant financial loss, explains a California personal injury lawyer.

In a normal auto accident case, the person who is responsible for causing the accident will need to pay for resulting property damage, as well as for resulting medical bills and lost wages. It is even possible to obtain compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress. Money for all of these losses may be paid through a settlement with the responsible driver's insurance company or may be obtained through filing a personal injury court action. 

Unfortunately, when a driver hits and runs, the victim of the accident will not know his identity and thus will not know who to make an insurance claim or file a lawsuit against.  This can leave victims of a hit and run accident with no compensation for the losses they face. 

Recovering Damages

In the event that a hit and run accident occurs, the best option that a victim may have is turning to his or her own auto insurer. However, this may not always be possible. In California, drivers are required to purchase liability insurance only. Liability insurance covers damage that a driver causes to others; not damage to that driver, even if that damage results from a hit and run. 

In order to make a claim with an insurance company after a hit and run, therefore, the victim will need to have purchased optional additional insurance coverage including collision coverage to cover loss to his vehicle and/or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance protection wherein the insurance company essentially stands in for the driver who caused the accident and who should be paying the bills but who is not doing so.   

When a victim has purchased these types of optional insurance coverage, his own insurer may pay some or all of his damages associated with injury and property loss after a hit and run. 

Holding the Driver Responsible

Attempting to locate the driver responsible for the hit and run may also be another option for victims who are seeking compensation for loss after a hit and run. Because a hit and run is a violation of California laws, the police may assist in finding the driver responsible for the accident, especially in the event that serious injury or death resulted. 

In order for there to be a viable chance of finding the responsible driver, it is important for victims to contact the police as soon as possible after the accident and to try to obtain as much information as possible about the vehicle who hit them. Writing down the make and model of the car, a description of the driver, the license plate number or any distinctive marks on the vehicle can all help the police to track down the person who hit and ran. 

When the driver is identified, a claim may be made with his or her own insurance company, provided that there is clear proof that the accident was the fault of that driver.  Insurance companies often try to deny responsibility in such cases, so a civil lawsuit may also be necessary in which the victim of the accident proves that the driver was in fact involved in the hit and run and responsible for resulting damages. 

Unfortunately, it is very common for hit and run drivers to have no car insurance. In such cases, it is still possible to file a civil lawsuit against that driver personally. Without the financial support of an insurance company, however, the driver may essentially be judgment proof. This term means that even if a hit-and-run victim wins in court, the defendant driver may not have any money or assets to pay the damages that the judge or jury awards, explains a California personal injury lawyer.

In such cases, additional court action may be required to attempt to collect on the damages. California courts may use measures such as wage garnishment (taking money directly from the defendant's wages and sending it to the victim) or placing a lien on the defendant's property in order to help the victim to collect the damages awarded. 

Additional information on hit-and-run accidents, including books and articles on the personal injury claims process, is available to the public free of charge.

To request one of these free resources, or to discuss a specific legal matter with an attorney, feel free to call 866-981-5596. 


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