Getting into a car accident is jarring, regardless of the circumstances. However, when the individual responsible for the accident leaves the scene, the scenario becomes especially complicated.
Hit and run accidents are more common than many people believe. This practice leaves victims in an especially vulnerable position. It forces them to navigate the situation with the help of law enforcement as well as their insurance company. If you have been the victim of a hit and run accident, you need to understand the laws surrounding this topic as well as what to do next.
The Sacramento car accident attorneys at Kreeger Law Firm are highly trained in this area. Our team can help you navigate your situation after a hit and run accident.
What Is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run accident is one in which a driver hits a person, another car, or a piece of property. Then, they leave the scene without taking responsibility or disclosing their identity. For this offense to be a legal violation, the driver must be aware that they hit something. They must also have caused damage to someone else’s property.
For example, if a driver is driving at night and rear-ends a parked car, they are required to get out and exchange information with the car’s owner. If the owner is not nearby, the driver must leave their name, address, and contact information on the car. This allows the victim to receive the insurance compensation that they deserve. If the driver neither stops nor leaves their information, they have committed a hit and run.
Hit and Run Punishments
A hit and run is a serious offense. Drivers are expected to pay attention while driving and claim responsibility any time they harm someone. Failing to do so results in significant punishments.
In most situations, hit and runs are categorized as misdemeanor offenses. However, if the driver hurts or kills someone and drives away, the hit and run will be categorized as a felony.
A misdemeanor hit and run may result in up to 6 months in a county jail, a fine of $1,000 or less, or a combination of both punishments. Misdemeanor offenders may receive probation for up to 3 years as well. Often, they must also pay restitution for the damage that they caused to the other person’s property.
A felony hit and run will result in a maximum of four years in a state prison, a fine of $10,000, or a combination of the two. It is important to note that felony hit and runs usually accompany other charges. You will face these punishments only for the hit and run portion of your offense. Because felony hit and runs involve serious injury or death, you may also be charged with vehicular manslaughter or murder, which carry additional punishments.
Personal Injury and Hit and Runs
If you are the victim of a hit and run accident, you may have the opportunity to create a personal injury claim against the individual responsible. Personal injury claims require that the perpetrator acted negligently when they caused harm or damage. Because hit and runs involve neglecting the law and leaving the crime scene, it is often easy to prove negligence in these cases. Many people can obtain compensation for their injuries after a hit and run.
Potential compensation includes:
- Medical bills, both past and future, related to the accident
- Vocational retraining if you must change jobs
- Compensation for lost income if you had to take time off work
This sum can be significant and offers essential financial support to victims of hit and run offenses.
Q: What Are the Consequences of a Hit and Run in California?
A: The consequences of a hit and run will depend on the situation. In most cases, a hit and run is a misdemeanor charge with the possibility of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the hit and run kills or seriously injures someone, the offense will be upgraded to a felony. This charge can result in up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. This is only for the hit and run. It does not encompass additional charges for vehicular manslaughter or other offenses.
Q: How Long Does a Hit and Run Investigation Take in California?
A: The length of a hit and run investigation varies depending on the situation. While some investigations take only days, others take months or years. In some cases, police officers are unable to identify the offender, and no charges can be filed. If you are the victim of a hit and run, it is important that you have legal representation. This can help ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Q: Can Hit and Run Charges Be Dropped in California?
A: In some cases of misdemeanor hit and runs, your charges may be dropped if you take full responsibility and pay for all associated damages. However, this is not guaranteed. Your offense may remain on your record even if you pay restitution. Felony hit and run charges will likely never be dropped unless the court discovers evidence that clears you of all potential guilt.
Q: What Should You Do After a Hit and Run in California?
A: If you are the victim of a hit and run, try to get as much information about the vehicle as possible as it is driving away. The license plate will be the most helpful. Whether you can get this information or not, call the police as soon as you can. The sooner law enforcement begins to investigate, the more likely they are to find the responsible party. Then, call a qualified attorney to represent you.
Contact Kreeger Law Firm
For more than three decades, our team has been helping families recover after hit and run accidents. We are experts in this field and provide high-quality legal care for all our clients. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys, please contact Kreeger Law Firm via our website.