How Does a Hit-and-Run Investigation Work in California?

April 28, 2023
Barrios Machado

How Does a Hit-and-Run Investigation Work in California?Getting involved in a car accident is stressful enough, but it’s even more upsetting if one driver leaves the scene. If you are left with the aftermath of a hit-and-run collision, you’re likely wondering how to get compensation for your losses, whose insurance applies, and how the authorities are going to investigate the crash.

To assert your rights in this complicated case, get the help of a competent car crash lawyer. The attorneys at Barrios & Machado are highly experienced in Southern California car accidents, and they are ready to provide the legal help you need.

What counts as a hit-and-run in California?

A vehicle collision becomes a hit-and-run case if one driver does any of the following:

  • Leaves the scene without identifying themselves to others involved
  • Leaves the scene without providing contact information to others involved
  • Leaves the scene before police arrive

Note that it doesn’t matter who was at fault in the crash. If you were involved in a vehicle accident and you believe you are not responsible for it, you still should not leave the scene under the above circumstances. Doing so is also committing hit-and-run.

How do California police investigate a hit-and-run?

Immediately after you get in a hit-and-run crash, you need to report the accident to the police. This is a requirement under California law. In addition, you should document as many relevant details about the crash as you can:

  • Write down the runaway driver’s full or partial license plate number if you saw it.
  • Note the description of the runaway driver and vehicle, including the car’s make and model, color, and any identifying features like bumper stickers or custom paint job.
  • Take photographs of the accident scene, including your injuries, damage to your car, damage to your surroundings, and tire marks.
  • Talk to potential witnesses and request their contact information.

Once law enforcers arrive, you can make an official accident report and ask for a copy. Provide the evidence that you documented. They will also conduct their initial investigation by:

  • Examining the scene for other evidence like tire marks, car paint scrapes, scattered car parts and debris, personal effects left behind, and more
  • Speaking with eyewitnesses
  • Collecting any photos and video footage of the crash, e.g., CCTV or witnesses’ camera footage
  • Looking for other accident factors such as hidden stop signs, obstructions on the road, blind curves, and the like

Police investigation aims to establish how the crash occurred and to identify and locate the runaway driver. Fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime in California, which can be a felony if the accident involves injuries.

How do I file an insurance claim after a hit-and-run in California?

California is a fault-based state in terms of auto accidents, meaning the person who caused the crash is liable to pay for the victim’s damages. But what do you do if the at-fault party fled the scene?

Your insurance policy requires you to notify your insurer of any accident you get involved in, regardless of who caused it. Call your insurance company about your crash, and also call a personal injury attorney. Having a lawyer is valuable in protecting your rights once the insurance company sends a claims adjuster to assess your claim.

If the at-fault party has not been found, you may still have other insurance options to claim compensation:

  • Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage – This is an optional coverage in your personal auto insurance, which kicks in if the at-fault driver is uninsured or cannot be found. UM insurance covers your medical bills, but it may likely deny vehicle damage repairs unless the other driver is identified.
  • Collision coverage – This optional coverage covers your vehicle repairs but not medical bills. One catch is that you would have to pay the deductible if the other driver is not around.
  • Medical payments coverage (MedPay) – This is also an optional add-on, covering your medical expenses regardless of who was at fault in the accident. It has no deductibles and no restrictions on medical providers.

You may notice that the coverages above are optional. If you purchased only the standard auto insurance policy without these add-ons, you might need to find other ways to get reimbursement.

At Barrios & Machado, we help our clients find legal remedies to get their much-needed and deserved compensation, even in complex hit-and-run cases.

Contact a California Hit-and-Run Injury Attorney Today

You need a competent ally if the driver who caused your injuries fled the scene. The lawyers at Barrios & Machado are among the most proficient in Southern California, with over 25 years of combined experience handling car crash cases.

Your consultation with us is free. Call (714) 515-9696 today or send us a message via our online contact form.

Have Questions? Get in Touch.

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