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HIT-AND-RUN ACCIDENTS - CALIFORNIA LAW

Hit-and-run accidents are covered by any uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage on your insurance policy. To bring a UM claim for compensation, a few conditions generally apply:

  1. Physical Contact: The hit-and-run driver’s vehicle must actually have physically touched you (as a pedestrian) or your bicycle or motor vehicle (not just swerved into your lane). 

[See Insurance Code 11580.2(b)(1) for the “physical contact” (direct application of force) requirement from the unknown operator’s/owner’s vehicle.  Orpusan v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. (1972) 7 Cal.3d 988].

Alternatively, some other instrumentality (rock, loose debris, another car) that may be propelled into you or your vehicle caused by the hit-and-run vehicle or other variations from direct physical contact may establish coverage.

[See Oanh Thai Pham v. Allstate Ins. Co. (1988) 206 Cal. App. 3d 1193 (rock fell from unknown dump truck, bounced on the highway, and then struck claimant / plaintiff in another vehicle).

If you fell off a motorcycle while trying to avoid being hit or swerve to avoid the dangerously driving hit-and-run vehicle, you typically cannot bring a UM claim.

The purpose or rationale for the contact requirement is to prevent fraud (Example, a claimant caused his or her own solo accident hitting a light pole or center divider, and then made up a story that a phantom vehicle caused the accident).

2.  Report to Police / Law Enforcement: You must report the accident to the police within 24 hours.  See Insurance Code 11580.2(b)(2).

3.  Notify Your Insurance Company:  You must report the incident to your insurance company within 30 days after the incident. See Insurance Code 11580.2(b)(2).

If 24 hours have passed, and you did not contact the police, don't give up.  Contact the police immediately.  Also, give you insurance company notice as soon as possible that you will be making a UM claim based on a hit-and-run accident.  The insurance carrier may decide to allow coverage anyway.  Further, you can argue that the insurance company suffered no prejudice by the delay because the law requires “prejudice” to justify denial of coverage. Beck v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. (1976) 54 Cal.App. 3d 347.  But if less than 24 hours has passed, report the accident within the 24 hour deadline!

Insurance Company Investigation: Your insurance company will investigate the hit-and-run accident.  They will inspect your vehicle.  They will look for paint transfers.  They will search for fresh damage to your vehicle.  In short, they are searching for evidence of actual contact.

Steps you can take to protect your legal rights are:

1. Attempt to obtain the license plate number, including the make and color of the vehicle that struck you.

 

2. Notify the police department within 24 hours (the sooner the better) of the hit-and-run accident.   Provide as much detail as possible.

3. Make a claim with your automobile insurance policy as soon as possible but within 30 days;

 

4. Examine your vehicle carefully for ANY evidence of contact from the phantom vehicle.

5. Do not attempt to make or allow any repairs to your damaged car or vehicle BEFORE your insurance company inspects the damaged vehicle;

6. Obtain the name, address, and telephone/cell number of each person who witnessed the incident. This will help your insurance company investigate the accident.

 

7. At the first interview by any paramedics, ambulance personnel, at admission to the hospital, or at your first visit to a doctor, let them know about the unknown phantom car that caused the accident. 

8. Most importantly, have substantial limits of uninsured motorist in case an accident occurs with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver.

 

A high percentage of California drivers are uninsured or underinsured.

Uninsured motorist coverage will cover your medical expenses, loss of earnings, and pain, suffering and emotional distress caused by the uninsured or hit-and-run driver who is at fault.

Substantial uninsured motorist limits is highly recommended.

If you have been in a car accident and want to talk with experienced car accident attorney, contact the law office of Matthew B. Tozer today at 949-863-9445.

2012

CAVEATS / WARNINGS:

Hit-and-Run and UM laws are complicated: Such laws and the court rules and cases that interpret and apply them, are complicated.  Even if you believe that you don’t meet a condition for bringing a claim, do not rely on this article, but immediately seek consultation and legal advice from a lawyer to determine if any of the exceptions or rules apply or not to your case.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change.  No legal advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended.  The information provided is from general sources, and I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of any reader. It is urged, advised, and recommended that readers of this information consult with their own legal counsel before relying on any information on this website or this article.  

Statute of Limitations: California law (and other states) require legal actions to be commenced within certain specific time limit or the right to sue and/or recover damages may be forever lost.   You are urged to seek attorney immediately if you wish to pursue a legal matter so that your right to sue is not lost due to the passage of time.


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