Alameda hit and run accidents occurring at an alarming rate
As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I receive a lot of calls from people have been injured by hit and run drivers. The injured include pedestrians, bicyclists, and car drivers. Recently, I researched the California Highway Patrol records pertaining to hit and run accidents. The findings were shocking.
Between 2011 and 2013, the last three years for which the CHP has records, there were 2,049 hit and run accidents. In 2013, over 10% of the accidents involving either death or injury, involved hit and run drivers. In that same year, Alameda County had the second worst record out of fifty-eight California counties for hit and run accidents.
What many people do not know, is that if they are injured by a hit and run driver, their own automobile coverage may protect them. This is true even if they are a pedestrian or a bike rider at the time of the accident. By law, every automobile insurance policy in California must include uninsured motorist coverage, unless the insured in writing agrees to forego this coverage (Never waive your right to uninsured motorist coverage—the small cost savings isn’t worth the risk) .
In order for your uninsured motorist coverage to apply in a hit and run accident there are certain requirements that must be met ( Insurance Code section 11580 (b)(1)). 1. The injury must occur as a result of a contact between the hit and run driver and the insured. The contact need not be significant, but there must be some contact between the hit and run driver and the injured person. 2. The injury must be reported to the local police within 24 hours of the accident. 3. A claim must be filed with the insurance company within 30 days of the date of the accident. These requirements were added to the Insurance Code in 1961 to curb fraud, collusion and other abuses that might arise from phantom vehicles causing accidents ( Inter-Insurance Exchange v Lopez (1965) 238 Cal. App. 2d 441).
How can you protect yourself against the hit and run driver? Make sure you have ample uninsured motorist coverage to protect you in case of an accident where the other driver is either uninsured, had small policy limits, or flees the scene without stopping and giving you his insurance information. The amount of the limits should be at least equal to the amount of your liability limits. Therefore, if you carry $100,000.00 of liability limits, you should also carry at least $100,000.00 of uninsured motorist coverage.
At the scene of the accident, it is important to get the following information if you are physically able. A description of the fleeing vehicle, a license plate, or partial plate, the identification of any witnesses. It is particularly important to get witness information if there is little or no physical damage to show a contact between the fleeing vehicle and yourself to corroborate that there was contact between you and the hit and run driver.
It is also important in these cases to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The reason is that in these types of cases, the claim will actually be against your own insurance company. Often times, people who initially report these claims to their insurance company do not understand this and make mistakes which can be detrimental to their claim, such as sloppy reporting, leaving out important facts with regard to the accident, and understating the nature and extent of their injuries.
Finally, do not hesitate to make an uninsured claim against your own policy for fear of increasing your future insurance rates. When you make an uninsured claim, you are just utilizing the protection which you have already paid for in your monthly premiums.