What is a Hit and Run in California?

woman next to her car that was involved in a hit and run

A hit-and-run collision is just what it sounds like. It’s when another driver hits your vehicle and doesn’t stop. In some cases, the driver might initially stop but then drive away before exchanging identification and car insurance information or waiting for the police to show up. 

Reasons for not stopping and accepting responsibility can include the guilty party being under the influence, not being licensed or insured, or having arrest warrants on their record. Whatever the reason, you must respond quickly. 

What Should I Do If I Get Hit by a Hit-and-Run Driver in California? 

First, try not to panic. Then be as proactive as possible to get yourself and passengers, if any, out of immediate danger.  

A car is only metal, glass, plastic, and fabric. It can be repaired or replaced. Drivers and passengers are a bit less replaceable. That’s why your first job is to see that everyone is safe. 

Start by making sure your vehicle isn’t hit again. Put your flashers on to warn other drivers of your presence, especially at night. If you can still drive your car, get it safely to the shoulder of the road. If there’s a quieter and potentially safer side road nearby, then move your vehicle there. But stay as close as possible to the scene of the collision so it won’t confuse the police in recreating what happened. 

Are your passengers alright? Can they leave the vehicle? Would it be safe for them to do so? Use your good judgment here. If it’s a congested roadway with very little room to get pedestrians far removed from traffic, it might be safer to stay in the vehicle. And don’t move an injured party unless it’s absolutely necessary. 

Call for Help 

Always have at least one fully charged phone with you. If the damage is minor, no one is hurt, and you either know your location well or have time to do a little Internet research, call the non-emergency number for the local police authority. If you don’t know the jurisdiction, contact the California Highway Patrol. Put these numbers in your phone so you have them handy. 

If, however, someone is hurt, or other circumstances make your condition more perilous, call 911. 

File a Police Report 

This is important. Your insurer might cover your claim without a police report in some accident situations, but it’s mandatory in California in the case of a collision with a hit-and-run driver. Even if it wasn’t, it’s the smart thing to do since it’s your proof of what actually happened. That makes it easier and faster, with fewer questions, when you file your insurance claim. 

Incidentally, California drivers must also inform the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days if the damage exceeds $750 or anyone is injured. Failure to do so could result in the suspension of your driver’s license. 

Gather Evidence and Documents 

Did you get a good look at the vehicle that struck your car? Can you describe its color, condition, make, and model? It’s better if you had a chance to take a photo. You’ll also want to take photos of the damage to your own vehicle. 

person taking photo of car in hit and run accident

Use your phone’s audio or video recorder to document as much as you remember at the time. This should be done as soon as possible, while your memory is still fresh, but only after making sure you and your passengers are as safe as possible. 

Also, make sure you receive a copy of your police report. 

Contact Your Insurance Agent 

The reason to collect all of that documentation is so you can give your insurance agent as much information as possible when filing your claim. A good agent will work diligently to see that there’s a settlement in your favor. So answer every question and treat your agent like a partner. 

Since you’ll want to make this call as soon as you can, you should always have a business card in your wallet, purse, or glove compartment or the contact info already plugged into your phone. 

Make Sure You Have the Right Coverage 

For this valuable tip, we’re going to pretend we’re Superman and can turn back time by reversing the direction of Earth’s rotation. That’s because our advice about having the right insurance policy won’t work after your accident. It’s our one tip to take before the bad thing happens. 

In California, drivers can get liability coverage, which is the minimum and cheapest form of coverage available. Makes sense when you consider the high cost of coverage here — until you find yourself a victim of a hit-and-run. 

With liability coverage, you can file an injury claim if you or anyone else in the vehicle is hurt, but it won’t cover the damage to your ride. 

Collision coverage costs more, but it will cover all but your deductible in the case of a hit-and-run. Does the extra premium cost seem to make more sense now? It very well might. That’s something you need to discuss with your insurance agent. 

Call Cost-U-Less 

When you have questions about your coverage or are considering upgrading to reduce your financial risk in a hit-and-run, you can discuss affordable car insurance rates with us. Call Cost-U-Less at (800) 390-4071, or get a quick quote online. We also invite you to find a Cost-U-Less location near you