Most drivers don’t think twice about climbing behind the wheel, unconsciously assuming that they will reach their destination safely. While this assumption is usually true, auto accidents are an unfortunate reality for many people each day. Even careful and attentive drivers may find themselves suffering a painful and costly injury at the hands of a distracted driver. Suddenly, they face a long physical recovery, expensive medical bills, and other unanticipated consequences that can wreak havoc on their daily lives and routines. Fortunately, California allows injured auto accident victims to pursue and obtain the compensation they need to cover the expenses stemming from the incident. Although the law does not require victims to enlist legal representation when pursuing a claim, doing so carries several advantages. Working with a knowledgeable Riverside County car accident lawyer is especially helpful if your accident involves a hit-and-run driver or a vehicle that fled the scene. This post will define hit-and-run accidents according to California law and provide an overview of what steps you can take to obtain the compensation you need to support your recovery after sustaining injuries at the hands of a hit-and-run driver.
Steps to Take at the Scene of an Auto Accident
Most motor vehicle accidents occur when one or more parties make a mistake or take their eyes off the road, causing them to collide with another vehicle. Right after impact, all of the involved parties should remain at the scene for several reasons. First, those at the scene should assess themselves and others for any injuries requiring immediate medical attention. Someone should call for an ambulance if any individual needs to go to the hospital for assessment and treatment. Additionally, local law enforcement must be notified of the incident if there were any injuries (or if there was property or vehicle damage exceeding $1,000). The responding officer will collect the contact and insurance information of all of the parties involved in the incident, as well as take their statements (and the statements of any witnesses). Leaving the scene before law enforcement arrives or failing to provide contact information to the other parties can lead to serious consequences.
Hit-and-Run Accidents in California
California law requires drivers to take specific steps at the scene of a collision. As mentioned above, anyone involved in a car accident must stop their vehicle and remain at the scene, providing their contact and insurance information to the other parties. Failing to adhere to these requirements may lead to misdemeanor or even felony hit-and-run charges, depending on the details of the event. Generally, misdemeanor hit-and-run crimes involve property damage, while felony offenses involve physical injury or death. Even if the accident caused minor scrapes and minimal vehicle damage, you should still remain at the scene until you have identified yourself to the other parties, exchanged all relevant information, and spoken with the law enforcement officer at the scene.
Navigating the Claims Process in Southern California
It’s no secret that auto accidents can negatively affect you physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. Medical bills, physical therapy expenses, follow-up appointments, medications, surgeries, and other costs associated with your physical recovery can pile up quickly. What’s more, your injuries may prevent you from working, causing you to miss out on the paycheck you rely on to make ends meet. When you are ready to file an auto accident claim, you can start by reporting the incident to your insurance company. As you talk to the insurance adjuster overseeing your claim, you can explain that the other driver attempted to flee the scene. It’s important to understand that even if the at-fault driver left the scene without identifying themselves, it’s possible that video surveillance and witness statements will eventually lead investigators to locate the hit-and-run driver. You may still move forward with the claims process while the search for the at-fault driver remains active. Once the suspect is identified, your insurance company will make a claim to their insurance company to ensure that you obtain the compensation you’re owed.
In the event that the hit-and-run culprit is not identified, your collision coverage should still be able to cover damage done to your car. If your insurance coverage includes MedPay (which is not required for all California drivers—it’s an optional, no-fault insurance option), you should be able to claim any injury-related expenses through this benefit. It’s also important to understand that filing a hit-and-run claim cannot be used to raise your insurance rates.
Supporting All Aspects of Your Recovery
Suffering an injury in a car accident is stressful enough, but when the incident involves an unknown suspect who has injured you and fled the scene, it’s natural to experience additional stress, uncertainty, and anxiety in the wake of this traumatic experience. As you move through your recovery, reach out to your loved ones for the support and encouragement you need during this trying time. You should also enlist the guidance of a caring and experienced Temecula auto accident lawyer who can assess the details of your situation and determine the most strategic path forward. Now is not the time to leave your health and finances up to chance—let your attorney advocate for your best interests and take the necessary steps to keep your future as bright as possible.
Securing the Settlement You Deserve
Most auto accident victims want to obtain compensation as soon as possible so they can begin to pay down the bills and other expenses associated with the collision. Unfortunately, many insurance companies use this eagerness to justify making a lowball settlement offer, hoping that you will accept the lower offer right away. However, if you can wait a bit longer, your attorney can negotiate a more favorable settlement offer on your behalf. You can trust that your skilled lawyer will work hard to secure you the best possible settlement to support the multiple aspects of your recovery.
If you need help collecting compensation after suffering an auto accident injury in Temecula or Murrieta, call Hales & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation, today at (951) 489-3320 to speak with a dedicated and caring car accident lawyer.