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Los Angeles Hit and Run Accident Attorney

Being involved in any type of motor vehicle accident in Los Angeles can be overwhelming, especially if you have suffered injuries. It can be even more stressful when you are injured in an accident, and the at-fault motorist flees the accident scene before you can obtain their license and insurance information. Hit-and-run accidents often leave accident victims questioning how they will recover compensation for the damage to their cars and their injuries.

Trying to locate a driver who fled the accident scene can be challenging, and the driver might never be found. If you do find the driver, you'll still have to overcome multiple obstacles before you can receive the compensation you are owed. To ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries in a hit-and-run accident, it's best to work with an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC.

The Statute of Limitations and Hit-and-Run Accidents

Like all other states, California has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit and is found at Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1. Under this law, you must file a lawsuit no later than two years from the date of your accident if you were injured or from the date your loved one died if the accident led to their death.

The way the statute of limitations works is that if injured victims or the families of people who die wait too long to file their claims, they could be prevented from seeking compensation. This can be problematic in a hit-and-run accident since you must have a defendant to sue. If you can't find a hit-and-run driver within two years, you might worry you won't be able to recover compensation.

Thankfully, the statute of limitations can be tolled if you are unable to file a lawsuit within the deadline because of your inability to find who caused your accident. Tolling pauses the deadline clock. If you find the driver, the clock will begin to run at that time. You will then be able to file a lawsuit against them.

Drivers Who Are Never Found

While it might be comforting to know that the statute of limitations will be tolled while you search for the driver who struck your car, caused your injuries, and fled from the scene, there are some situations in which a hit-and-run driver will never be found. This doesn't mean that you won't be able to recover compensation, however.

UM/UIM Coverage

California law requires insurance companies to offer all motorists a type of insurance called uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), which motorists must purchase unless they waive it in writing. Your insurance company must explain this coverage to you at the time you buy your automobile insurance policy. UM/UIM insurance covers you in the following situations:

  • The driver who hit you is uninsured.
  • The driver who hit you has coverage, but it is not enough to pay for all of your losses.
  • The driver who hit you fled the accident scene and hasn't been found.

While you can decline UM/UIM coverage, doing so is not a good idea. This coverage is inexpensive and can protect you if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident or are hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. In California, an estimated 17% of motorists are uninsured. If you decline UM/UIM coverage and are hit by a driver without insurance, you could still file a lawsuit against the uninsured motorist to try to recover damages. However, an uninsured motorist is unlikely to have enough property or money to make a lawsuit worthwhile, which would leave you without compensation.

Hit-and-run accident statistics in California are sobering. According to Value Penguin, fatal hit-and-run accidents increased by 89% in 10 years and represented slightly more than 10% of all fatal traffic collisions that occurred during that time. Not having UM/UIM coverage could leave you needlessly exposed and result in your inability to recover the compensation you deserve.

With UM/UIM coverage, you file a claim with your insurance company. Your policy should cover your losses up to your UM/UIM policy limits. The current minimum UM/UIM amounts are $30,000 for bodily injury for one person or $60,000 for bodily injury for two or more injured victims. If your accident is serious, these amounts might not be enough to cover everything. To avoid this issue, you might want to consider purchasing Um/UIM coverage with higher limits.

Collision Coverage

California also requires motorists to carry collision coverage as a part of the state's minimum auto insurance requirements. Collision coverage pays for vehicle damage to your car after a collision and is available regardless of who was at fault. You can file a claim with your insurer for collision coverage if your car was damaged by a hit-and-run driver. However, you will have to pay the deductible before the insurance will pay.

Hit-and-Rund Drivers and Criminal Prosecution

Drivers who flee the scene of accidents can face criminal charges if they are located. If the driver who struck and injured you is charged with a crime, you can file a lawsuit against them while the criminal case is pending. If you wait, and the driver is convicted and sentenced to jail or prison, the statute of limitations will be tolled for two years or until they complete their sentence, whichever occurs earlier.

In many cases, hit-and-run drivers flee accident scenes because they are uninsured, intoxicated, or have committed another crime and are trying to avoid being caught. Even if the police locate the driver, and they are convicted, they might not have insurance from which you can recover compensation. This is another good reason to carry UM/UIM coverage and to retain an experienced hit-and-run accident attorney who understands what to do to recover maximal compensation for you.

An important note about criminal vs. civil cases involving hit-and-run drivers is that you don't have to wait until the criminal case concludes before filing a lawsuit. Since civil and criminal cases fall under different bodies of law, cases can proceed simultaneously. However, your civil case might be stayed while the criminal case is pending.

While you might think you don't have to file a civil lawsuit when the driver is facing criminal charges, it's a good idea to pursue a civil claim. Criminal cases sometimes take a long time, and the civil statute of limitations could expire before the driver's criminal case is over. Criminal prosecutors also have a much higher burden of proof, so it's possible the person might not be convicted.

Filing a civil lawsuit allows you to pursue justice and hold the motorist accountable. As a civil plaintiff, your burden of proof will be lower than what the prosecutor is expected to meet. This means that it might be possible for you to win your civil lawsuit even if the driver is found not guilty in their criminal case.

If your civil claim is stayed, and the driver is found guilty in the criminal case, your lawyer can use the guilty verdict or plea as evidence in your civil case. This can strengthen your case and make the insurance company much more likely to offer a fair settlement.

Hit-and-Run Accidents and Insurance Companies

Whether you locate the other driver and pursue a claim against their insurance company or file a claim with your insurer under your UM/UIM policy, you'll likely find that negotiating your claim with the company will be difficult. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and they strive to avoid paying the full value of claims that are filed.

You can expect the insurance company to engage in tactics designed to minimize how much it will be forced to pay for your losses or to avoid paying you anything at all. Retaining an attorney who has extensive experience dealing with insurance companies and resolving injury accident claims can place you on a more even footing and increase the chances you will recover full compensation for your losses.

It's a good idea to retain a lawyer immediately. Once you do, the insurance company will have to communicate with your attorney instead of you. This can keep you from making mistakes when talking to the insurance company that could be used to reduce your recovery amount.

Consult an Experienced Hit-and-Run Lawyer

If you have been injured in a hit-and-run accident, you should contact an experienced lawyer at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. We offer free consultations and can explain how we will approach your case. Contacting us quickly can help preserve critical evidence to support your claim and avoid potential mistakes that could harm your claim. Regardless of whether the driver is found, our attorneys will work to recover full compensation for your losses. Call us to schedule your free case evaluation today at 866.966.5240.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.