Fleeing the scene of an accident is illegal under California law. If you’ve suffered injuries or property damage from a hit-and-run accident, you’ll need to take several steps to protect your right to seek compensation for your injuries. A personal injury lawyer can help you weigh your options and pursue the best outcome for your case.
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What to Do Immediately After a Hit and Run Accident
Your safety is the top priority after a car accident. You should pull your vehicle over to the side of the road or a safe location to determine the extent of the damage. If you or any passengers need emergency medical attention, call an ambulance immediately.
Next, you should call the police to have an official accident report completed. Give the police all information you can about the nature of the accident and the identity of the hit and run suspect.
Gather any evidence you can about the car accident, such as:
- Photos of property damage or injuries
- Any information you have about the commercial vehicle that caused the accident, including the make, model, color, and license plate number
- Contact information of any witnesses
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Notes about pain or any other symptoms you experience after the accident
All of this information will help when you file a claim with an insurance company.
Will Your Insurance Company Pay for Your Damages?
If you can’t locate the hit and run driver, you may be able to seek compensation from your own insurance company. How much compensation you recover will depend on the type of insurance you carry and your policy limits.
Collision coverage may pay for the cost of any damage to your vehicle. You can use collision coverage regardless of who was at fault for the accident. You’ll need to pay your deductible before the collision coverage will apply.
Uninsured motorist coverage may cover some of your medical bills if you have severe injuries. This coverage can also be used in any accident where the at-fault driver does not have insurance.
If you don’t have these types of insurance coverages, your insurance company may not pay for damage caused by a hit-and-run accident. General liability coverage won’t pay for your medical bills, property damage, or other costs.
How a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You
If you need help dealing with the insurance company, you should discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer. Ask for a free consultation to get some guidance about your options after a hit-and-run accident.
A personal injury lawyer should be able to explain legal concepts in simple language. They should explain the basic steps you need to follow to seek compensation for your injuries, including:
- Sending a demand letter to the insurance company
- Negotiating the amount of compensation for each category of damages
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit, if necessary
You should be able to hire them to represent you on a contingency basis, which means you don’t need to pay any up-front legal fees. Your lawyer will be compensated with a portion of any financial recovery you receive.
After an initial consultation, you should have a clear picture of what to do next and whether you want a lawyer to represent you in your accident claim.
Filing a Claim Against the Hit and Run Driver
If you are able to find and identify the hit and run driver who caused the accident, you can file a claim for damages with their insurer. Your lawyer can write a demand letter that asks for compensation for all of your damages, such as:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment or loss of use
- Property damage
- Out-of-pocket costs such as transportation to doctor’s appointments
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
The insurer will respond with their car accident settlement offer or rebuttal to your demand letter. Often, they will seek to settle for significantly less than the amount you’ve requested.
Your personal injury lawyer can handle the negotiations at that stage. He may need to provide additional substantiation of your damages or arguments as to how you’ve calculated your settlement request.
You may need to go through several rounds of negotiations to reach a fair settlement. If you still don’t agree with the insurance company’s best offer, you can decide to file a personal injury lawsuit and have a court hear your case.
The Personal Injury Litigation Process In San Diego
The first step to filing a lawsuit is filing a complaint with the court. You’ll need to provide service of process of this complaint on the defendant so that they have adequate notice of the lawsuit.
At this stage, it’s critical to have a personal injury lawyer assist you. Complaints and other court pleadings have strict requirements that must be met. If you submit the documents incorrectly or miss a deadline, you could jeopardize your right to seek compensation for your injuries.
There are also some important laws you must know about relating to your hit and run case. One of them is the California statute of limitations for personal injury cases. You generally have two years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit, or else you will be barred from filing a lawsuit.
Your lawyer will be there to handle each step of the litigation process, including:
- Initial pleadings
- Responsive pleadings
- Required disclosures
- Post-trial motions or appeals
Once the litigation process has begun, it’s still possible to settle your case. You and the opposing party may decide to reach a settlement and end the lawsuit at any time.
If no settlement is reached, your case will be submitted to a jury, and they will determine whether to award you damages for your losses.
Get Help With Your Hit and Run Accident Claim by Contacting a San Diego Auto Accident Lawyer
If you’re dealing with medical bills and other expenses after a hit and run accident, you shouldn’t need to figure out your legal remedies on your own. Getting help from an experienced personal injury lawyer can relieve you of this burden, so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.