freeway traffic

Hit-and-Run Accidents On Los Angeles Freeways

Protecting Your Rights

In this week’s post, we discuss hit-and-run accidents on freeways in and around Los Angeles and what you need to do as the victim to protect your rights

Any crash where the person at fault flees the scene instead of remaining to exchange insurance and contact information is committing a hit-and-run under the California Traffic Code. While fleeing the scene of an accident you caused is considered a criminal act in all 50 states, California has specific laws around hit-and-run accidents you should know.

Overview of Los Angeles Hit-and-Run Laws

Let’s say you are driving along one of Los Angeles’ busy freeways when someone not paying attention to the road veers into your lane, sideswipes your car, and sends you careening at 65 MPH into the guardrail. It is extremely likely you will sustain potentially serious injuries, plus your vehicle will be wrecked. Meanwhile, the driver who hit you speeds away.

You might assume your insurance will cover the bills for your lost and damaged property and medical care regardless. After all, the crash wasn’t your fault. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case.

The first thing you need to check is whether your automobile insurance coverage is a liability-only policy. If you opted into such a policy because of the cheaper premium, you might find yourself out of luck after a hit-and-run. Although these policies do provide minimal coverage for others if you caused an accident, they won’t cover the repairs or replacement of your vehicle or your bodily injuries caused by another driver. So, without the other driver’s insurance information, you could end up with significant financial obligations.

You might think that having an uninsured motorist coverage option would cover your hit-and-run losses. However, that is not the case in California. If you cannot identify the responsible driver, uninsured motorist coverage will not apply.

Proactive Review Of Your Insurance Coverage

Certain types of insurance may cover your physical and/or property damages after an accident from which the other driver fled. In California, these include:

  • Collision, which will provide some assistance in paying for your post-accident losses regardless of fault. However, these policies come with deductibles you have to pay before claims will be covered.
  • Medical payments (MedPay) coverage, which is not dependent on establishing fault. While it can be used to pay for medical bills after a hit-and-run, it does not cover property damage or losses. However, it might be a good idea to discuss the advantages of increasing your insurance premiums to get this coverage.

Ultimately, your best option for maximizing coverage of your accident-related losses is pursuing compensation from the responsible driver’s insurance via legal claims. Which is why a hit-and-run can be more devastating from a financial perspective than a car crash where the responsible driver remained and their relevant contact and insurance information collected.

What To Do If You’re The Victim of a Hit-and-Run

You do have recourse for tracking down and identifying a fleeing driver, thanks in large part to modern technology—namely contacting the police. Many Los Angeles freeways are monitored by Caltrans live traffic cameras, which means the California Highway Patrol might be able to pull footage from when and where your accident occurred. This information can be used to track down the motorist who fled the scene of your accident, so that they can be held responsible criminally (and in any civil action) for your injuries and property damage. The legal penalties for hit-and-run depend on how serious the accident to some degree, but typically range from six months in prison and fines of $1,000 for minor collisions to up to four years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines for crashes that result in loss of life.

Do what you can at the scene of the accident to gather evidence. If you even caught a glimpse of the car and/or driver, jot down descriptions right away, before they fade from memory. Even the smallest detail could be enough to help the police track down the responsible party—make of the car, physical characteristics of the driver, partial license plate numbers, etc. If you were traveling with a passenger, ask them to write down any information about the car that hit you too, as they might have spotted more details than you.

If another driver stops to assist who saw the accident, make sure you get their contact information, so they can provide eyewitness testimony as to what happened. Ideally, they will remain until emergency personnel and police respond to the crash, but if not, at least you will be able to contact them later.

Assuming you are capable, snap photos of the accident scene with your smartphone, including skid marks, debris like a piece of the other vehicle’s bumper, and other physical evidence. Even tire tracks might help police track down the vehicle. However, leave the actual collection of evidence to the cops.

Besides contacting the police in the aftermath of a hit-and-run and filing a police report, you must contact your insurance provider and let them know what happened. They will guide you through your options for filing a claim and let you know what, if any, recourse you have for collecting without knowing the identity of the other driver.

Contact A Lawyer After A Hit-and-Run Collision

Besides the police and insurance, you should contact an attorney well-versed in investigating hit-and-run accidents. A lawyer who specializes in motor vehicle personal injury cases understands all the ways in which a hit-and-run driver can be tracked down. By working with the police, investigators, and other professionals, your lawyer may be able to help piece together who the responsible driver is and hold them accountable for your injuries and losses. In Los Angeles, that lawyer is Scott Corwin of Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation. Contact him as soon after a freeway crash as possible, and he will assist you in seeking the justice you deserve.

Contact our office today by calling (310) 683-2300 or filling out the online contact form to discuss the details of your case and learn more about how we can help you. We offer free consultations, so there’s no reason not to reach out to someone from our team right away.