Most people know some variation of the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man traveling on the road is beaten and left for dead by a group of bandits. Two men pass on the road without helping him, but the third, a Samaritan, stops to help the man. He takes him into town, checks him into an inn, and leaves money to cover his expenses. When people tell the story, they usually focus on the Samaritan and the two men who passed on the road. To be sure, these characters are the most important to the parable’s message. However, one has to wonder what became of the bandits on the road. Who were they? Were they ever caught? Were they brought to justice?
In a hit and run accident, the same questions apply to the runaway driver, but if you have been victimized, your questions are more than sheer curiosity. You may wonder how your expenses will be covered, how likely it is to catch the driver, and whether you will ever be able to pursue legal action against them. California has one of the highest rates of hit and run accidents at 11%. The law requires that all drivers involved in an accident immediately stop, exchange information with the other driver, and wait to answer questions when the police arrive. However, sometimes a driver will leave you by the side of the road with no information and no idea of what to do next. There are three main reasons for a driver to flee the scene of an accident. They may be unlicensed (in many cases living in the U.S. illegally), intoxicated, or uninsured. Under any of these conditions, there are some things a victim should keep in mind during an investigation.
If the driver is in the country illegally, he or she is unlicensed. This greatly increases the odds that the vehicle is unregistered. Often an illegal or unlicensed resident will purchase a car at an auction or bank-lien sale since no license is required to buy one this way. When an unlicensed driver with an unregistered car flees the scene, he or she will likely abandon the car and disappear on foot. That way, even if the car is recovered, it is untraceable.
Intoxicated or uninsured drivers are easier to track down, however this might be of little help to the injured party. Uninsured drivers do not have the ability to pay damages, and even though California law requires drivers to carry auto insurance, and the state may choose to prosecute, you will not benefit. However, you can protect yourself by purchasing Uninsured Motorist coverage from your own insurer. This insurance can help compensate you for lost wages and pain and suffering, things that your regular insurance and health coverage will not touch. (Your regular insurance should be applied to property damage.) Uninsured Motorist insurance can also apply to your passengers in an accident and usually covers you if you were struck as a pedestrian. In California, Insurance Code 11580.2 requires all automobile insurers to include Uninsured Motorist coverage in their insurance contracts unless they get a written waiver from the insured. Waiving this type of coverage is folly, because it is probably the most important part of an automobile insurance contract. In fact, you should purchase as much Uninsured Motorist coverage as you can afford.
If a driver flees because of intoxication, the odds are better that they will be found and that they could be insured. You can help by trying to get the license plate number, a description of the car, and a description of the driver who leaves the scene without giving you their information. This can be helpful to police immediately since your chances of finding the driver are highest right after the accident. You should also contact an attorney who specializes in automobile accidents and injuries as soon as possible to be advised of how to proceed throughout the process of recovering losses and hopefully proceeding against the other driver.