In this article, we explain the California law regarding hit-and-run accidents, and discuss what you are required to do if you are at fault in such an accident.
Over the course of 30-plus years practicing law in Los Angeles, I have seen countless drivers flea from the scene of an accident after seriously injuring my clients, and in more serious collisions, even killing them. The most common reason I hear from these hit-and-run drivers as to why they drove away after the collision is “I was scared.” Scared of what? Well, many times these drivers are intoxicated, and are afraid of getting a DUI. Other times, they are unlicensed or uninsured. And sometimes, they are just afraid of actually seeing the damage they caused. No matter their reasoning at the time of the collision, these drivers all made a decision at that moment that cost them dearly. So let’s review what California requires you to do in the event of an accident causing injury or death to another.
The requirements of what the law expects you to do in the event of such an accident are set forth in the California Vehicle Code (CVC) sections 20001, 20002, and 20003. To help you understand these laws, I have explained them in plain English below.
CVC 20001 deals with accidents where there is injury or death. This Code states that if you are involved in an accident resulting in the injury to or death of a person other than yourself, you must immediately stop. You are required by law under CVC 20003 to provide to any and all parties involved in the accident, as well as any law enforcement officers, all of your information. This includes, but is not limited to your name, address, identification or driver’s license, and insurance information. Additionally, if you are the at-fault driver that caused the collision, you are required to give any injured persons reasonable aid, including but not limited to driving them to a hospital if they request such assistance.
In the event that you find yourself in this situation, STOP. Leaving the scene of an accident where there is an injury or death to another is a FELONY. The penalty for violating this law is up to 4 years in a state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. In the event the at fault driver is intoxicated at the time of the accident, depending on the extent of the injury, this penalty can be enhanced by up to another 5 years for leaving the scene. This is in addition to the civil lawsuit that can and almost always is brought by the victim or their family who has hired an experienced personal injury attorney.
CVC 20002 deals with accidents where there is damage to the property of another, including vehicles. In this case, the law requires you to STOP immediately, in a place that is safe, clear from obstructing traffic, and does not pose a hazard to other motorists. Then, you are required to either (1) locate the owner of the property you have damaged and provide them with all of your information, or (2) leave a note in an obvious place that the owner will see (under the damaged car’s windshield wipers, for example) informing them of what has happened and detailing your contact information.
If you have damaged the property of another in an auto accident- STOP. Find the owner, or leave a note. Leaving the scene of an accident that has caused damage to the property of another is a MISDEMEANOR. This is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail, and up to a $1,000 fine. This is in addition to paying restitution to the owner of the property for the damage you have caused.
It is understandable that if you are the driver in a collision that is your fault, and you have caused damage to someone’s property, injured another person, or the accident resulted in the death of another person, you are scared. This is a normal response to such a situation. However, it is of crucial importance that you STOP and DO THE RIGHT THING. Whatever it is that you may be afraid of happening if you stop is nothing compared to what will happen if you do not! Law enforcement almost always is able to track down the hit and run driver.
For over 30 years, the Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have been fighting to get their clients the compensation they deserve. If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of another’s actions, including hit-and-run drivers, please call us today for your free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404.