Our California car accident lawyer knows any auto wreck has the potential to be stressful—maybe even traumatic. While getting into an accident that is another person’s fault is never pleasant, you can typically rely on your attorney and their car insurance company to negotiate a good settlement. However, it’s a different story when the other motorist refuses to take responsibility for their wrongdoing, running away from the scene and leaving you to deal with the consequences of their mistake.
What to Do After a California Hit-and-Run Accident
A hit-and-run can happen in one of two very different ways:
- A driver might leave the scene immediately after an accident, leaving you no time to catch their name or write down their license plate number.
- A driver might refuse to exchange their information once you ask.
In either case, there are certain steps you can take to improve your chances of an eventual recovery:
- Calm down. A hit-and-run can be very scary, especially if you or a loved one is injured. If you need medical attention, get it—even if it means you have to leave the scene in an ambulance. If you are unhurt, try to recollect what happened and write down everything you remember about the other motorist’s appearance and vehicle.
- Call the police. Contacting law enforcement is imperative in a hit-and-run, as a police report may be the only piece of evidence showing that you were hurt by another motorist.
- Go to the doctor. Even if you do not think you were hurt, a physician may be able to identify injuries concealed by a post-accident adrenaline rush. Seeing the doctor also helps show the insurance company that you believed you were injured in the crash and are not just making up claims to get a bigger settlement.
- Contact an attorney. If you were hurt in a hit-and-run, you will likely need a lawyer’s help to make your case.
How to Get Compensation After a Hit-and-Run
Getting paid after a hit-and-run can be difficult, even if your car was clearly damaged and you sustained real, diagnosed injuries. However, you do have several options to pursue damages:
- File a claim through your insurance company. If you have Uninsured Motorist coverage, your company may be obliged to pay all or part of your damages. Otherwise, your collision coverage may still cover some of your costs.
- Look into MedPay. If you were hurt and had a MedPay add-on, it should cover some or all of the costs of your medical treatment.
- Start an investigation. Your attorney can help you investigate the circumstances of your accident to identify and track down the perpetrator.
- Consider other defendants. If outside factors contributed to your accident, you might be able to hold a third-party—such as a city or county government, private business, or other entity—responsible for your injuries.
Unfortunately, the reality of hit-and-run accidents is that, even with the right insurance coverage, getting fair compensation can still be difficult. After all, insurance companies do not like to offer big pay-outs in the absence of compelling evidence—and when the other driver is absent altogether, the insurer will be less likely to negotiate in good faith.
An experienced Costa Mesa car accident attorney, however, can help you identify the options most likely to get you the justice you need and the recovery you deserve.
Potential Damages in a Costa Mesa Hit-and-Run Case
California, unlike some other states, does not have any cap on the damages you can claim after a hit-and-run accident. You may be able to obtain compensation for:
- Car repairs
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Wrongful death
Since calculating damages can be very difficult—and because you may not be able to claim certain kinds of damages through MedPay or Uninsured Motorist coverage—an attorney’s assistance is imperative in insurance negotiations.
What Happens If the At-Fault Motorist Is Found
If the police do manage to locate the at-fault driver, they may press criminal charges for fleeing the scene of an accident. If this happens and you have yet to take legal action, you should still contact an attorney to discuss your options. Remember: criminal charges do not guarantee a conviction. And even though a successful conviction may lead to a judge ordering the at-fault motorist to pay restitution, this amount may not cover the totality of your expenses.
A civil personal injury lawsuit can help you get the money you need to recover from your injuries, free from any restitution limit imposed by a criminal court.