With a legal system intertwined, finding justice following a motorcycle accident can be stressful. This is especially true when dealing with a hit and run incident. A recent article shows that California is on top of the charts with hit-and-run accidents. Even with such incidences becoming an epidemic in our state, we can help you receive proper compensation for the damages, injuries, pain, and suffering you have endured. Our seasoned Los Angeles car accident attorney will not rest until you are awarded the justice you deserve.
If you are lucky to be alive after an incident, then you can fight for your justice. While your case may not lack some serious challenges along the way, our experience and expertise in the field can help increase the chances of enjoying the best possible outcome.
What Is A Motorcycle Hit And Run? Who Is To Blame?
Legally, hit and run is defined as a crime committed by a car driver who gets into a collision with another human, vehicle, or property and fails to stop right after the accident. Stopping is crucial because this gives the victim or authorities a chance to gather crucial information such as the driver's name and license number.
In the state of California, fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime punishable by law. This is irrespective of whether or not a property is damaged and people are injured. As a responsible driver, you are obligated to stop and confirm that an incident did not cause injuries or damages.
In case a driver hits a motorcycle, yet the motorcyclist is not present at the scene, he/she ought to leave a note providing detailed contact information.
Elements of a Hit and Run Motorcycle Accident
When filing a motorcycle accident lawsuit, it is highly likely that the claim or claims will be hinged on the hit and run driver's negligence. After an incident, fleeing shows negligence and failure to act the way a reasonable person would when faced by similar or identical circumstances.
In California, there are 5 key elements involved in a standard negligence case. As the victim of an accident, it's crucial to understand that these elements are vital building blocks of a personal injury claim. Your attorney can help you establish these elements and ensure your case has a fair chance of bearing fruit.
A vehicle driver is obligated by law to act in a particular way after injuring a motorcyclist or causing property damage. In California, drivers of commercial trucks and passenger vehicles have a moral and legal duty to exercise care towards motorcyclists using local roadways.
2. Breach of Duty
Hit and run is a grave crime that shows a driver breached his/her duty to exercise care. If it is also established that traffic laws were violated, the courts will be forced to assume that the at-fault driver breached the duty of reasonable care stipulated by a legal theory dubbed "negligence per se."
Before you are compensated, you need to prove that the involved driver caused your injuries and losses. This element also goes by the name "but-for" causation. As an injured motorcyclist, you need to demonstrate that "but for" the at-fault driver's actions, your injuries, property damage, and other losses wouldn't have occurred.
4. Proximate Cause
A liable driver is only financially and legally responsible for the foreseeable harm suffered because of an accident. In California, foreseeable harm includes bodily injuries suffered by the biker.
It is vital to keep medical records, photos, and videos related to an incident. These are crucial pieces of evidence that can help show that an accident caused you to suffer legally recognized harm. This could be in the form of financial losses, damage to your motorcycle, other forms of property damage, and bodily injury.
One of the prime duties of a motorcycle accident attorney is to gather this important evidence from your healthcare providers, the police officers, and other experts. This evidence will help you build a solid case against the driver and increase your chances of receiving reasonable compensation.
What to Do Following a Motorcycle Hit and Run Accident
If you are involved in a crash, and the driver flees the scene, your number one priority as the motorcyclist should be to seek emergency medical attention. It is also vital to seek medical assistance for other people who may be injured due to the incident. If possible, dial 911 immediately and let the operator know about the hit-and-run accident and your injuries.
In California, hit-and-run crimes are not taken lightly. This is mainly because fleeing drivers are known to pose additional risks to the general public in their attempts to conceal a crime or dodge its repercussions. The police will lend a hand by interviewing witnesses and gathering video surveillance that can be used to locate the fleeing driver.
While the bulk work will, at this point, belong to the authorities, any additional information you can provide will be helpful. Here is what you could do to help the police with their investigations and possibly provide intelligence that can boost your personal injury claims:
1. Jot Down Notes
Anything you can remember about an incident can be helpful to your case. You can use your phone or a pen and paper to jot down every detail about the fall of events. Some of the details to include are:
- The license plate of the driver (if you noted it)
- General description of the driver
- Make and model of the car
It's typical for traumatized victims to quickly forget crucial information, so you should take notes as soon as possible.
2. Take Photos
Videos and pictures of the accident scene are of fundamental importance. Capture everything, including the damaged motorcycle and your injuries. All of this will be documented and presented during your personal injury case.
3. Talk To Witnesses
During the heat of an incident, it is common for victims to miss crucial details about what transpired. This is where bystanders come in and provide varying information, based on what they saw from different vantage points. Remember that trauma often makes the memories of victims unclear. Witnesses, on the other hand, provide first-hand information on how things unfolded. They may confirm your side of the story and possibly reduce the risk of your insurer blaming you for the accident.
4. Contact Your Insurance Provider
Your insurance company will also need prompt notice of the accident. This will prepare them to settle a potential claim.
5. Keep Receipts
Depending on the severity of an accident, you are likely to incur certain expenses. This includes medical expenses as well as costs allied with towing and motorcycle repairs.
6. Don't Chase the Driver
It's tempting to play hero and run after the fleeing driver. Well, this is not a smart idea. Trying to go after the driver could endanger your life, so it's best to leave that work to the police.
7. Seek Medical Attention
Most accident victims only understand the severity of their injuries a day or two after an accident. It is of the essence to seek medical attention immediately, even if you are not bleeding or in pain. The practitioner will run tests to determine whether you suffered internal bleeding or muscle and soft tissue injuries. Nothing is as important as ensuring you recover properly in case of injuries.
8. Call Us
Even a minor accident may leave you nursing pains while at the same time answering endless calls and filling out forms. Fortunately, it's unnecessary to do all this alone! Our lawyers are not just skilled, aggressive, and tenacious; they are also compassionate and can help make it easier to recover and get duly compensated.
Options Victims Can Explore After a Hit-And-Run Motorcycle Accidents
Typically, motorcycle car accidents involve more serious damages and injuries that other types of collisions. An incident can easily result in life-changing conditions such as:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Fractured bones
- Back, neck, or spinal cord damage
- Facial trauma
- Internal injuries
The unfortunate truth is that the odds of these damages being fully compensated are futile if the hit-and-run driver is not located. Locating a driver after an incident is challenging even for the authorities. Furthermore, some drivers are eventually located, although they lack sufficient insurance coverage or personal assets to cater for damages or injuries.
Irrespective of the circumstances revolving around your case, the best outcome can be achieved if you have a competent attorney in your corner.
Here are several options you can explore following an accident.
Victims can quickly be compensated, even for serious injuries, if they have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This kind of policy also comes in handy if a driver is located, but he/she doesn't have insurance. Note that damages can only be recovered up to your policy limits.
Medical Payments Coverage
If you have MedPay coverage, your medical expenses will again be covered up to your policy limits.
Another policy that may also come in handy is your conventional health insurance. Once you have exhausted your UM and MedPay limits, your health policy may help cover extra medical costs. Note that some policies don't offer motor vehicle-related coverage because they expect car insurance companies to take care of these expenses.
File a Claim or Lawsuit
In most cases, drivers flee the scene because they don't have insurance. This makes it challenging to file a claim with their insurance company, even if they are located by the police. If you cannot receive compensation from a driver's insurer, the law allows you to file a lawsuit directly against the hit-and-run driver.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit that has a fair chance of winning is an uphill task. To better your chances of receiving proper compensation, you must hire an aggressive and seasoned motorcycle accident lawyer.
Insurance and Non-insurance Coverage
Once you have contacted the police, you then need to get in touch with your insurance provider. If the hit and run driver is located, his/her insurance can offer protection that covers:
- Collision damages
- Uninsured property damage
- Uninsured bodily injury coverage
- Coverage for additional medical expenses
Irrespective of whether you intend to use your coverage or that of the party at fault, insurance companies will, in the majority of cases, try to downplay the situation. After all, these companies have skilled insurance adjustors who are tasked with the duty of finding loopholes to help limit your coverage and cut costs. For this reason, the need to seek the assistance of a car accident personal injury attorney when filing a claim must not be underestimated.
Understanding the Compensation Process
Typically, compensation is available to motorcycle victims during a hit and run accident. This is irrespective of whether the at-fault driver is apprehended or not. If you have never been involved in such an accident, the chances are that you know little or nothing about the compensation process. Again, this remains one of the key reasons why you need a Los Angeles hit and run lawyer in your corner.
Not all personal injury cases end in court. Before filing a lawsuit, a skilled lawyer will first attempt to negotiate for a fair settlement with the insurance company. If the specialist and the insurers can agree, everyone wins, and a case is closed.
The negotiation process hardly goes smoothly because insurers will always want to pay as little as possible. To speed up the process, make your expectations clear, and officially start the negotiation process, your attorney will draft a demand letter on your behalf and send it to the insurer.
This demand letter includes:
- Why you ought to be compensated by the insurer
- The degree of injuries suffered
- The nature of medical treatment received
- Information about lost wages
Once the insurer receives the demand letter, you should have a response in due time. If reaching an agreement is impossible, your lawyer will file summons and complaints to the court. This means the case will go to trial and you must prepare effectively to improve your chances of acheiving the best outcome. A proper preparation process involves gathering evidence, compiling the relevant documents and records, and calling in witnesses.
How Will Comparative Negligence affect My Case?
It is not unfamiliar for a motorcyclist to be held partially liable for an accident. In such an instant, however, the California "comparative negligence" system ensures you can still collect some compensation, although the amount received will depend on your level of fault. Under the comparative negligence theory, if it is established that the at-fault driver only bears 60% of the fault, this means that the motorcyclist will not receive 40% compensation for damages or injuries.
How Long Should I wait For My Hit and Run Lawsuit to Be Settled?
Various factors play a leading role in dictating how soon you can obtain compensation following a hit and run lawsuit. Among the leading factors is the duration of time spent seeking medical attention. In case a lawsuit is filed before you complete medical treatment, you face the risk of not receiving a fair settlement for expenses incurred. Insurers often provide compensation for the treatment already received. Only in rare cases do they consider care needed in the future.
If the at-fault driver cannot be located and you need to depend on your UM coverage, the policy limits may also affect how fast you obtain a settlement. The settlement is often faster when the policy limits are low.
Common Damages Awarded Following Hit and Run Motorcycle Accidents
With a skilled and dependable lawyer by your side, you have a good chance of receiving compensation for damages and injuries incurred because of an accident. Moreover, every form of damage is taken into account, including economic and non-economic damages.
Here are common damages that are considered when deciding the amount of money you will collect in compensation:
1. Property Loss
If a driver hits you leaving your motorcycle damaged slightly or beyond repair, the cost of fixing or replacing the bike will be included in the personal injury claim. You are entitled to collect an amount equivalent to the fair market value of property damaged during a collision. This also includes personal items such as your phone.
2. Medical Costs
All medical costs incurred should also be settled if your personal injury claim is successful. This includes not only treatment expenses, hospital stays, therapy, and prescriptions, but also ambulance costs. In case you are badly injured and need continuing treatment, this will also be taken into account when preparing a settlement.
For you to recover money spent seeking treatment, the treatment received must be reasonable. What is considered "reasonable" will highly depend on the circumstances around an incident. For example, if you didn't suffer catastrophic leg injuries because of an accident, seeking experimental surgery for the slightly fractured leg may be unreasonable.
Whether a specific medical expense is reasonable and unreasonable is a matter that is often up for debate. This is a fact-based argument that your attorney can handle. For instance, the expert can create a persuasive and fact-based argument to support the need for your exorbitant treatment options. He/she may even proceed to call in an expert witness such as a physician to testify in support of the treatment.
3. Lost Income
If an accident leads to lost wages, the damages covered may include:
- Time taken off work to seek medical care
- Decrease in income because you had to change jobs following an accident
- Complete loss of earning capacity- in case of serious injuries that make you immobile or incapable of holding a job
4. Punitive Damages
Unfortunately, it's only in rare cases that punitive damages are covered after a hit and run motorcycle accident. This is more so the case if the at-fault driver is not caught. In such a case, it is impossible to establish the negligence of the defendant. If the police can locate the driver, punitive damages may:
- Punish the at-fault driver for their conduct
- Impose measures to deter similar conduct in the future
California vehicle code § 20002
According to the California vehicle code § 20002, it is illegal to drive away from a scene without identifying yourself to the party involved, especially if an incident causes property damage. Violating this code leads to misdemeanor charges that carry a maximum penalty of spending 6 months in county jail. At the same go, the defendant is required to settle a fine of up to $1,000.
For guilt to be established under Vehicle Code § 20002, the defendant must have:
- Left the accident scene (hit and run)
- Failed to identify themselves to the involved party
- Caused damage to someone else's property
California Vehicle Code § 20001
The Penal Code 20001 is applied when a driver flees the scene without leaving their identifying information, yet someone suffered injuries or was killed during an accident. Felony charges attract a fine between $1,000 and $10,000. If the injuries suffered were moderate, the defendant risks spending 16-3 years behind bars. The punishment for killing or seriously injuring a motorcyclist, on the other hand, attracts 2-4 years in state prison.
Other related offenses included:
- Driving without a license- charged under California Vehicle Code § 12500
- Driving under the influence (DUI) - charged under California Vehicle Code § 23152
- Driving under the influence with injury- charged under California Vehicle Code § 23153
- Exhibition of speed- charged under California Vehicle Code 23109(c)
Find a Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney Near Me
Hit and Run Motorcycle Accidents are terrible tragedies that often leave the motorcyclist nursing more injuries and settling for more damages than the car driver involved. Apart from serious physical injuries and expensive property damage, motorcyclists may also suffer from emotional scarring and trauma. If you need the best Los Angeles car accident attorney, you should contact us. While our team of aggressive lawyers may not reverse the damages incurred, they will fight to ensure you receive the financial remedy you deserve. Get in touch with us online or give us a call on 424-237-3600