Under California law, and all other states for that matter, it is a crime to flee the scene of an accident. Per state law, motorists must remain at the scene of a crash (whether it involves injuries or not) and render aid to any injured victims if necessary. Unfortunately, not every motorist abides by this law, which is why there has been a sharp rise in the number of hit-and-run accidents and fatalities nationwide, according to a recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
As reported by researchers last month, U.S. roadways have seen a substantial uptick in hit and run accidents, as well as fatalities involving crashes where drivers failed to remain at the scene. Here are a few details about the numbers:
- Since 2006, U.S. roads and highways have averaged over 680,000 hit and run crashes each year – that equates to over 1 hit and run accident every minute in the U.S.
- Hit and run accidents nationwide have increased by over 7% each year since 2009.
- Almost 65% of victims killed in hit and run accidents are either cyclists or pedestrians.
The statistics pain a grim picture of a unique challenge victims can face after being involved in preventable car accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. Not only do these collisions pose risks of serious injuries and long-term if not life-long repercussions, they also create risks that can compromise a victim’s ability to secure the financial compensation they need after a wreck.
Because these risks have an overwhelming potential to devastate victims and their families, our personal injury lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP want to provide a few tips that can help you stay safe, and protect yourself and your family when the unexpected happens:
- UM / UIM Coverage – Motorists in California are required by state law to carry a minimum amount of liability auto insurance. However, there are still many motorists who do not (and being uninsured is a large reason for why drivers may flee the scene). After hit and run accidents, victims may find that their right to recover financial compensation for their damages (including medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering) may be compromised by the fact that an at-fault driver can’t be located. Even when a motorist is found, they may not have enough, if any, auto insurance to cover your damages, or may soon be on their way to prison, leaving you with little opportunity for securing a recovery of damages. As such, it is important to consider purchasing uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage as part of your own auto insurance. This type of coverage can prove critical when you are harmed by a driver who can’t be located or who simply doesn’t carry any insurance or enough to cover all your damages. Injured victims who do have this coverage can seek compensation by filing claims with their own insurance carrier.
- Safety as a Pedestrian / Bicyclist – Because bicyclists and pedestrians are most at risk for being involved in hit and run accidents, being vigilant when walking or biking public roads is crucial. When you hit the road on foot or on bike, be sure to travel on sidewalks, bike paths, and other designated areas where you are most safe. You should also obey the rules of the road and be sure you are seen by nearby motorists who can easily lose you in their blind spots. This means making eye contact with drivers prior to entering intersections, pulling out of driveways, and when making right-hand or left-hand turns. You can also increase your visibility, at day or night, by wearing bright and reflective gear and using flashlights.
- Avoiding Distractions – Distraction has become a serious concern on our roadways, both for motorists and bicyclists and pedestrians. If you are driving, uphold your legal obligation to safely operate your vehicle by avoiding all distractions, including your cell phone. If you are walking or biking, avoiding distractions is critical to being aware of your surroundings and protecting yourself from other negligent motorists.
- Take the Rights Steps After a Crash – After an accident involving a driver who flees the scene, there are some steps you can take to better protect your rights. This includes calling law enforcement so police can begin searching for a hit and run driver, and so they can respond to the scene and compile a police report. If you are able to do so, get the name and contact information of any witnesses who saw what happened, and note as many details as possible about the hit and run driver and their vehicle. You should also consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible to help you navigate the process ahead and assist you in seeking compensation through the most appropriate pathway possible – whether that means a negligent motorist who was apprehended, through your own UM/UIM coverage, or even a company who employed a commercial driver that fled the scene.
Hit and run accidents can create added complexities in victims’ fight for compensation, which is why working with proven personal injury lawyers is critical. To discuss a potential case and learn more about your rights and options, contact our firm for a FREE consultation.