How Do Hit-and-Run Investigations Work in California?
A hit-and-run accident is one in which the at-fault party flees the scene instead of remaining to offer assistance and exchange information, as California law requires. Taking off after an accident is a serious crime that can result in fines and jail time. If you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident in California, you may wonder how you will achieve compensation without the at-fault party sticking around to take responsibility. Learning what to expect from the investigative process can answer your questions.
The Victim Calls the Police
If someone injured you or damaged your property in a hit-and-run, it is up to you to call the police and report the accident. Call the police after any auto accident in which someone has broken the law, such as a hit-and-run or a driving under the influence (DUI) accident. Contacting law enforcement will create an official record that the accident happened, and that you did your part as a responsible citizen to report the wreck. Police will arrive and begin analyzing the scene of the accident for potential sources of evidence.
- The other driver’s plate numbers
- Description of the runaway driver and/or vehicle
- Description of what happened from the victim
- Eyewitness accounts and statements
- Camera footage of the accident
- Surrounding area video surveillance footage
- Photographs of the scene of the accident
- The other vehicle’s paint on the victim’s vehicle
- Tire marks on the ground
- Hidden stop signs or other roadway defects
Responding police officers will do everything they can to get enough evidence to track down the hit-and-run driver. As the victim, do your part by trying to recall important facts about the collision. One of the best things you can do for your case is to look at the license plate numbers of the at-fault vehicle as it drives off. Even a partial plate number can give police enough information to make an arrest.
The Police Search for the Perpetrator
Hit-and-run is a crime that can result in up to one year in county jail or a state prison, and/or a fine of at least $1,000 and up to $10,000, according to the California Vehicle Code. If the hit-and-run caused a serious bodily injury or fatality, the perpetrator could face up to four years behind bars and/or a fine of $2,000 to $10,000. The police in California will work hard to identify the hit-and-run driver, for both the victim’s restitution and to punish the perpetrator. Police will work to investigate the accident, find evidence, and track down the at-fault driver. It can take up to 10 days for the police to finish and process a hit-and-run accident report.
The Victim’s Insurance Company Investigates
If the at-fault driver is not available to take responsibility, the victim will seek restitution through his or her own auto insurance provider. The insurance company will typically require a police report to start a hit-and-run investigation. The insurer will assign a claims adjuster to investigate your accident. The adjuster will read the police report and may conduct a separate investigation of his or her own. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, and the insurance company confirms the validity of your claim, you will receive benefits to pay for your property damage repairs and medical bills.
Dealing with your insurance company is often more difficult when the at-fault driver shirks responsibility for the accident. If you do not have uninsured motorist insurance, your insurer may deny the claim. In these cases, speak to an attorney about the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against a third party. If the city could have prevented the accident through proper roadway maintenance, for example, or if an auto part manufacturer contributed to your injuries due to a produce defect, a third party could owe you compensation for your injuries. A local San Diego injury lawyer can help you and your family fight for compensation through all available outlets.