Hit and Run Laws Expanded in California
As of January 2019, California is expanding its hit and run laws to not only apply to other vehicles and pedestrians but also bicyclists. While the law covered cyclists on the road before, it did not apply to bicyclists that are on bike paths at the time of the crash. This law will extend the criminal laws to apply to these situations.
By law, drivers are required to stop at the scene of an accident if the crash resulted in injury or death. Failure to stop is a felony charge, which may result in jail time and fines.
Reasonable Drivers and Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and run accidents are a serious problem in California. In fact, the California Highway Patrol reports an estimated 28,000 hit and run accidents each year in Los Angeles County alone.
Although hit and run criminal charges have been expanded, the new law doesn’t really affect the civil liability of a hit and run crash. The fact is that hit and run accidents are still treated as car crashes, even if they are not illegal. However, having the police investigate this type of claim for you can be very helpful to your case.
Every driver has a duty to act reasonably when they drive. In California, part of that duty is to stop and report a crash if it resulted in injuries or death. At a minimum, the at-fault driver should alert emergency services that an accident took place. In serious accidents, they may need to notify the police as well. Clearly, a driver cannot fulfill these obligations if he or she does not stop after a crash.
Civil Liability for Hit and Run Crashes
One of the main things that you have to prove in a car accident case is that the other driver wasn’t acting reasonably. In many situations, then, it is easier to prove that a drive was acting unreasonably in hit and run cases.
Hit and run cases are also different for another reason: Punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded in car accident cases when the other driver shows extreme recklessness or a disregard for the other person involved in the accident. Because a driver who leaves the scene of a crash clearly indicates that he or she does not care about the person that they hit, punitive damages are much more likely to be awarded in those situations.
Punitive damages are not related to your losses or injuries. Instead, this type of damage is designed to punish the driver who drove off after hitting you. Punitive damages are provided in addition to the money that you can receive for the losses and harm caused by the crash.
Getting Help After a Hit and Run Accident
If you or a loved one have been involved in a hit and run accident, you should do three things right away:
- Get the medical attention you need. Your health and safety should be your first concern.
- Report the incident to the authorities. The police will help you find whoever hit you, and they may bring felony charges against him or her.
- Set up a free consultation with Manibog Law PC to talk about what your next steps should be to start a civil lawsuit. Call today – 1-800-MANIBOG.