A car accident can be incredibly stressful. In addition to struggling with a painful injury, you have to figure out how to make ends meet. When someone else causes your accident, you can demand that they pay for your injuries.
Things can get complicated when you are injured by a hit and run driver. You’re owed compensation for your injuries, but now you have the added challenge of finding the driver who left the scene. Once the driver is located, several obstacles may stand between you and a quick financial recovery. Working with an attorney will help to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries after a hit and run accident.
You Could Be Denied Compensation If You Don’t File Your Claim on Time
California limits the amount of time you can file a personal injury claim after a car accident. In most cases, you’ll have two years from the date of your accident to pursue compensation. Waiting too long to file your claim can prevent you from getting the money you deserve.
What If the Hit and Run Driver Can’t Be Found?
There are times, however, when circumstances beyond your control prevent you from filing a timely claim. For example, it could take police more than two years to track down the person who caused your hit and run accident. You shouldn’t be punished because the hit and run driver was able to evade police for so long.
The statute of limitations can be tolled – or paused – if the hit and run driver who caused your accident is out of the state or can’t be found. The clock will begin to run when the hit and run driver is located. You’ll then have the time you need to file a personal injury lawsuit against that driver.
What if the Hit and Run Driver is in Prison?
Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal. A hit and run driver can face criminal charges. If the driver is convicted, they may be sentenced to spend time in a Los Angeles County jail or California state prison. The length of their sentence will depend on how much damage they caused and their prior criminal record. The statute of limitations that applies to your hit and run injury case can be tolled while the driver is behind bars.
The statute of limitations will be tolled for two years or until the driver is released from custody, whichever is sooner. If the hit and run driver is sentenced to four years in prison, the statute of limitations will be tolled for up to two years. If the hit and run driver is sentenced to 6 months in jail, the statute of limitations will be tolled for 6 months until they are released.
Protect your right to file a lawsuit by contacting an attorney immediately after your hit and run accident. Your lawyer will make sure that your case is filed within the applicable statute of limitations. Missing the deadline can prevent you from getting the money you need and deserve.
The Hit and Run Driver May Never Be Located
After your accident, the police will do everything they can to track down the hit and run driver. However, it’s possible that the driver will never be identified or located. Does this mean that you are out of luck? Not necessarily. You may be able to recover compensation from your own insurance company.
Collision Coverage: You’re required to purchase minimum amounts of car insurance if you own a vehicle. This includes at least $5,000 in collision coverage, which pays for the cost of damage to your vehicle after an accident, regardless of fault. Collision coverage under your own policy can help to pay for damage caused by a hit and run driver. However, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay a deductible before your policy kicks in.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Insurance companies in California are required to encourage drivers to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. In fact, you have to decline this coverage in writing if you don’t want it. Uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) protects you if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. Benefits from this type of policy can also be used if you are injured by a hit and run driver. This is true even if you were a pedestrian or bicyclist. Your UIM coverage extends when you’re not behind the wheel.
Negotiating with insurance companies after an accident is notoriously difficult. These companies do not want to pay you for your injuries. They’ll do everything they can to deny or limit your payout. When you hire an attorney to handle your insurance claim, you are much more likely to obtain a fair settlement award.
A Criminal Case Could Affect Your Personal Injury Claim
Everything will go smoothly once the hit and run driver is located, right? Not necessarily. The driver may be arrested and face criminal charges for the hit and run accident. This criminal case could impact your hit and run injury claim.
Staying Civil Proceedings
Criminal and civil cases are distinct. It is possible to navigate a personal injury claim while a hit and run driver is in the middle of a criminal case. However, the driver’s attorney will probably ask to have the civil proceeding stayed until the criminal case is resolved. In other words, your personal injury case may be put on hold until the criminal proceedings are over. This can extend the amount of time you have to wait to get the money you deserve.
Will the Outcome of a Criminal Case Influence a Civil Case?
Not necessarily. Civil and criminal cases are distinct. You aren’t guaranteed a win in your civil case just because the hit and run driver is convicted of a crime. At the same time, the fact that the driver isn’t convicted doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to recover comepnsation in your civil case.
If the driver is convicted of a hit and run, your attorney can use that information to leverage a settlement or award in your favor. A jury may be more inclined to believe your side of the story if the hit and run driver has already been convicted in a criminal court. The driver may be eager to settle to avoid a high jury award.
It’s important to work with an attorney if the driver in your case has been charged with a crime. Your lawyer will know how to frame your arguments and use the criminal proceedings to your benefit. This will help your case and allow you to maximize your financial recovery.
Have you been injured in a hit and run accident? Are you struggling with medical bills and other accident-related costs? Contact Citywide Law Group for immediate legal assistance. Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers have more than 17 years of experience handling complex hit and run car accident claims.
We know how important money can be after an accident. We also know how difficult getting that money can be when the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the crash. We’re prepared to help you hold that driver accountable and make sure that you’re fairly compensated for your injuries.
Call our law firm today to schedule a free consultation. Our legal team will review your case and answer any questions you have.