Hit and run car accidents are a sad reality of driving on US roadways. However, fleeing the scene of an accident can cause significant harm and, in the worst cases, death. Even minor hit and runs are emotionally traumatic and frustrating.  

In all cases, hit and run victims deserve justice. And at the May Firm, we’re here to help victims pursue their legal rights. If you’re a hit and run victim, contact us for a free case evaluation. In the meantime, here’s what California law says about hit and runs, and what to do if it happens to you.

What Is a Hit and Run?

A hit and run occurs when a driver collides with property, vehicles, or another road user, and fails to stop. In other words, they simply flee the scene, leaving untold damage in their wake.

Types of Hit and Run Scenarios

There are many types of hit and runs. Examples of a hit and run include: 

  • The driver runs a stop sign, hits your car, and keeps speeding along. 
  • Someone bangs your car in a parking lot and doesn’t stop or leave a note.  
  • A driver runs over a pedestrian or cyclist and fails to stop.  
  • The driver crashes into your property but keeps driving.  

Hit and runs can cause significant property damage. However, they can also result in serious bodily injury and/or death.

Hit and Run and Parked Cars

Leaving the scene of an accident is a hit and run. It doesn’t matter if someone hits a parked car – it’s still a collision. The driver could face criminal charges (although they will probably be misdemeanor charges).  

If you hit a parked car, leave your details so the owner can contact you. Document the damage by taking pictures or filming around the car. And if someone hits your parked car, contact the police to make a report.

What the Law Says About Hit and Run Accidents

The law is specific about what you should do after any road accident.

Reporting Requirements

In CA, you must report a crash to law enforcement if there’s any bodily injury. It doesn’t matter how minor the injuries are. They must be reported. The report should be made within 24 hours of the crash.  

You must also report a crash to the DMV if there’s any bodily injury and/or property damage worth over $1,000. You have 10 days to do this.

What About Minor Damage?

It doesn’t matter if there’s only minor car damage. If a driver left the scene after crashing into another vehicle, it’s still a hit and run under CA driving laws.

No matter how minor damage may seem, drivers should always err on the side of caution. If in doubt, report the incident.

Penalties for Failing to Report an Accident in CA

If you don’t report an accident when required, it could be considered a hit and run. You face penalties ranging from fines to jail time, depending on what happened.

Car damaged in foreground traffic passing slowly in background

CA takes hit and runs seriously. If in doubt, call the police or the DMV and report any accident. They will explain what you need to do.

Is a Hit and Run a Criminal or Civil Charge?

A hit and run is a crime. That means the person responsible could face criminal charges. The penalties include: 

  • Fines 
  • License suspension 
  • Jail time  
  • DMV driving point 
  • Denial of insurance coverage 

You can still bring a civil lawsuit against a hit and run driver. They are two separate cases which are handled separately. In other words, just because there’s a criminal conviction doesn’t mean the victim will receive civil damages, and so on.  

The legal procedures involved can be complicated. Your hit and run accident lawyer can explain how the legal process works.

Is a Hit and Run a Felony?

A hit and run is either a misdemeanor or a felony. The charge depends on the type of damage caused in the crash.  

  • Property damage only: If there’s only property damage, a hit and run is usually a misdemeanor. The penalty is up to six months in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine.   
  • Personal injury: If the crash causes injury, it could be a felony. A judge may use discretion to charge hit and runs causing minor injuries as misdemeanors. Otherwise, it’s likely to be a felony.  

The sentence depends on the severity, but a felony hit and run usually involves jail time. Fines could also be issued.

What Happens if There’s a Fatality?

A hit and run causing death is a felony. The penalty is up to four years in prison, and/or fines of up to $10,000.  

Hit and runs causing serious injuries are also likely to be charged as felonies. Serious injuries include permanent disability and catastrophic injuries e.g. limb loss.  

Have you lost a loved one through a hit and run? Our attorneys want to help you get justice on their behalf. Contact our hit and run accident lawyers to discuss a possible wrongful death claim.

Consequences of Hit and Run Incidents in CA

If someone causes a crash, it’s normal for them to panic. However, fleeing the scene of an accident is never the answer, especially if there are casualties involved.  

  • Often, prompt medical help is enough to prevent death. By leaving the scene, the at-fault driver may cost someone their life.   
  • Hit and run crashes could result in a criminal record. This could affect the at-fault driver’s long-term career prospects.  
  • It’s not uncommon for the at-fault driver to lose their license after a hit and run. This could severely impact their life and livelihood e.g. if they’re a commercial driver.   

Hit and runs drivers leave misery in their wake. Especially if someone is seriously injured or killed.  

Never flee the scene. Do everything you can to help others involved in the crash. Their lives could depend on it.

Why Victims Need a Car Accident Lawyer for Hit and Runs

There are many reasons why victims need legal representation after a hit and run.  

  • It can be notoriously difficult to settle hit and runs. An experienced attorney is best placed to evaluate the evidence and determine how to proceed. 
  • Insurance companies will do everything possible to avoid payouts. A lawyer will fight to uphold your legal rights. 
  • Car accident laws are, more generally, complex. But hit and run accident lawyers know the law. They understand how to interpret it and apply it to a client’s advantage.  
  • If you don’t have legal experience, you may not understand what your case is worth. An attorney will explain what’s a “fair” offer so you can make informed choices. 
  • A hit and run normally involves a criminal element. Given the legal processes involved, you’re best served with an attorney on side.  

Our car accident lawyers are waiting to help – call us today.

What You Should Do After a Hit and Run Car Crash in CA

Hit and runs are hugely stressful. It’s completely normal to feel confused about how to handle the situation. To help, here’s what you should do immediately following a hit and run in CA. 

  • Call 911 immediately if there are serious injuries. Health is always the top priority.  
  • Ensure that you’re safe and that there are no other emergencies, e.g. smoke from your car. Move away from the vehicle if necessary and safe to do so. 
  • Contact law enforcement to report the crash. They will attend the scene to confirm the hit and run.  
  • If you see the driver before they flee the scene, try to capture their license plate. Anything you can provide police to help identify the culprit is helpful.  
  • Check for witnesses. They may be able to confirm what happened, or even identify the perpetrator.  
  • Contact your insurance carrier. Explain what happened – stick only to the facts. You can’t normally claim under your uninsured motorist coverage. However, your carrier will explain your options.  
  • Call a hit and run accident lawyer. They can evaluate the evidence and determine how you might obtain compensation for any injuries.  

Civil lawsuits are challenging in hit and run cases. Unless you can identify the driver, it may not be possible to sue for damages. However, at the May Firm, we’ll do everything we can to help you identify the driver. We will consider the evidence and determine whether it’s enough to make a claim.

Hire Hit and Run Accident Lawyers in California

Hit and runs can be devastating. In the worst cases, they end tragically. But even minor incidents can leave you feeling frustrated, anxious, and overwhelmed.

Two smashed cars light gray and black with woman standing behind gray car in background

If you’re a hit and run victim, you deserve compassionate legal advice and support. You also deserve to know your legal rights – and how to pursue them. 

That’s where the May Firm can help. As experienced hit and run attorneys, we know what matters to accident victims. We understand the challenges you face, and how stressful the process may seem. Our team in CA wants to shoulder the burden for you, so you can focus on recovery.  

If you hire our auto accident lawyers, we’ll get to work on your case immediately. We will robustly defend your legal rights and fight to secure the justice you deserve. Every client is part of our family, and we’ll do everything possible to help you overcome this challenge.  

Don’t struggle with a hit and run case alone. Instead, call the hit and run accident lawyers at the May Firm. We don’t charge anything unless we win your case, so you have nothing to lose. Contact us now to arrange a free, no-obligation meeting to discuss your case.  

Disclaimer: The content in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not represent the current law in the recipient’s jurisdiction. The article should not be interpreted as professional legal advice from The May Firm or the individual author, nor is the information intended to substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. The article, nor any of the information included, should not be used to act or refrain from acting without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.