In 2020, 14 deaths and fatal injuries from hit-and-run accidents in the Coachella Valley. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of hit-and-run offenders are arrested and charged with crimes with legal consequences. According to authorities, a hit-and-run case may only be concluded if you have details of the suspect’s car and a witness to the crash.
In this article, you will understand how a hit-and-run investigation works and what happens if the police fail to locate the at-fault driver in an accident.
What Are Considered Hit-and-Run Accidents in the Coachella Valley?
A car accident resulting in property damage or bodily injuries may be tagged as hit-and-run if the driver responsible for the crash leaves the accident scene without notifying the victim and police officers in a specific area.
In California Vehicle Code 20003, a driver who causes an accident resulting in injuries or death shall provide their details to any traffic or police officer at the accident scene, such as:
- their full name,
- their current residence address,
- their names and current residence addresses of any occupant of the driver’s vehicle injured in the accident,
- the registration number of the car used,
- the victim’s name, and
- the victim’s current address.
If an at-fault driver fails to fulfill this duty, they may face legal consequences, including the following:
Hit-and-run California Penalties
The consequences of a hit-and-run offense may vary depending on the complexity of the case. However, most hit-and-run charges in the Coachella Valley have legal penalties, including the following:
Hit-and-run accidents causing property damage:
- county jail for six months,
- fines worth $1,000,
- community service and probation, and
- compensation for the property damages.
Hit-and-run crashes resulting in injuries or wrongful death:
- fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000,
- jail time up to 15 years,
- sanctions by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and
- punitive damages.
What Evidence Is Needed to Convict a Hit-and-Run Offender?
To convict a driver of hit-and-run, you must prove that they are guilty of the violation by presenting necessary evidence, such as:
In hit-and-run cases resulting in property damage or bodily injuries, the victim should report the accident to the police and provide information that may help locate the driver.
Police reports typically contain the following details that help in locating the hit-and-run driver:
- Names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information of the drivers involved,
- Contact details of witnesses,
- Testimonies of drivers, passengers, and witnesses,
- Time, date, and location of the accident,
- Weather and road conditions during the crash,
- A drawing of the car accident,
- Traffic violations, if there are any,
- The police’s conclusions about how or why the accident happened.
The authorities will likely locate and convict the hit-and-run driver using these details. So, make sure to gather the necessary evidence at the accident scene, such as:
- Photos of the vehicle, including its plate number and car type,
- Dash cam, CCTV, or surveillance footage of areas nearby, and
- Witnesses’ statements.
Photos of the Accident
If you only incur property damage or minor injuries and can move freely, you should gather as many photos of the accident as possible. Sometimes, the police can identify the hit-and-run driver through the captured pictures of the vehicles involved.
These steps will help you find the appropriate angle to capture the necessary details when you are taking photos of the accident scene:
- Take pictures of the accident as soon as possible to capture the hit-and-run driver’s vehicle.
- Take multiple images of the accident scene from different angles.
- Document every detail of the crash, including the skid marks, damaged property, and victims’ injuries.
- Take the same photos with and without a flash. This will help generate quality pictures of the accident scene.
- Include the surrounding areas.
- Document everyone’s information, including the witnesses’ contact details.
Witnesses may share their statements about how the accident happened. This will help the police understand the cause of the crash and locate the driver at fault. As much as possible, the testimony should be descriptive and specific.
Additionally, you must take the witnesses’ statements after the accident to ensure that their memories of the collision are still fresh. This can also help avoid memory distortions that may occur if they have spoken to other witnesses who have different accounts of the crash.
- What caused the accident,
- How the crash happened,
- Time, location, and weather or road conditions of the accident scene,
- Physical characteristics of the hit-and-run driver, and
- Physical description of the vehicle used.
While it may be challenging to capture a hit-and-run driver, the said evidence will help the authorities understand the cause of the accident and identify the culprit of the crash.
How Do Police Find Hit-and-Run Drivers?
Usually, the police officers will rely on the evidence you have gathered at the accident scene to determine and locate the at-fault driver. They may create a sketch of the driver through the witnesses’ descriptions of the at-fault party. Apart from this, they may use photos or surveillance footage of the accident scene to identify the license plate number and vehicle type used by the hit-and-run driver.
If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident in Coachella Valley, it is best to contact the police immediately. This will help secure the necessary evidence at the location of the accident. You may also seek help from a legal expert who can assist in identifying the following legal options to receive compensation for the damage of the crash,
How Long After the Hit-and-Run Accident will the Police Contact Me?
There is no specific timeline for when the police may locate the driver. However, the police may contact you hours or days after the accident if you can provide solid evidence to assist in identifying the hit-and-run driver.
Moreover, hiring a personal injury lawyer will help you gather evidence after the accident. Attorneys have the knowledge and resources to investigate the crash and seek convincing proof to determine the at-fault driver.
What Happens If the Police Can’t Locate the Hit-and-run Driver?
Generally, the driver responsible for the accident in Coachella Valley should shoulder the damage expenses of the crash. However, your insurance provider may cover the damage costs if it is impossible to locate the driver.
Typically, an insurance provider will pay for compensation if you have availed of the following coverages:
- Collision covers for vehicle repairs or replacement if you are involved in a crash with another vehicle or stationary object.
- Uninsured motorists can compensate for vehicle damages or bodily injuries suffered by victims of the collision.
- Medical payments pay for the medical expenses if you or your passengers are hurt in a hit-and-run accident, regardless of who was to blame for the collision.
- Personal injury protection covers the medical costs, lost wages, and other special damages expenses of victims of a collision.
Some victims of hit-and-run accidents in the Coachella Valley assume that they will shoulder all the damage expenses. However, a legal expert can check your insurance policy and seek compensation for the damages despite not being able to locate the hit-and-run driver. This is why you should contact an attorney who can provide the appropriate legal options that best suit your needs.
What to Do In a Hit-and-Run Accident in Coachella Valley
If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident in Coachella Valley, you may follow these steps to help secure your safety at the accident scene and respond to the incident appropriately:
- Stay calm and slowly stop your vehicle.
- Call 911 immediately.
- If you can, move your vehicle to a safe location.
- Exchange information with any involved drivers at the accident scene (if there are any), including driver’s license, registration, and insurance information.
- If the driver is fleeing the scene and you can move, take photos of their vehicle and license plate number.
- Gather other necessary evidence, such as witness testimony and accident scene pictures.
- File an accident report.
- Cooperate with the police officers.
- Seek help from legal experts.
Hit-and-run accidents are challenging to handle. In most cases, the police have a slim chance of locating the driver, which may hinder you from seeking restitution for the crash.
It is also complicated to deal with the insurance company, especially if you need to examine your health. They usually try to find ways to reduce your compensation or avoid paying for the damages altogether. So, it is best to have a lawyer by your side who can manage your car accident claim while you focus on your recovery.
If you are searching for an accident attorney who can guide you through the legal process of claiming your settlement, Jacoby & Meyers has passionate legal experts with experience in handling car accidents in Coachella Valley and other areas in California.
We will investigate the facts of your crash and identify your legal choices that can guarantee maximum compensation for the damages of the hit-and-run accident. Contact us at 800-992-2222 for a free consultation today!