San Jose Hit and Run Car Accident Attorney
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, in 2016 there were 754 hit-and-run accidents in Santa Clara County (which includes San Jose) resulting in death or injury. Believe it or not, that makes Santa Clara County one of the safer counties in California for hit-and-run accidents. But, that doesn’t mean these accidents aren’t a serious and continuing problem for local residents. In January 2019, a pedestrian died in a San Jose hit and run incident when a driver collided with him on Almaden Expressway at Camden Avenue.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a hit-and-run accident in San Jose, California, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your injuries and losses. To learn more, contact a San Jose hit and run lawyer at Bohn & Fletcher, LLP today.
What Is a “Hit and Run” Accident?
Under California law, “[t]he driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident” and give aid and information to anyone who needs it. If an accident only involves damage to property, the driver “shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists.” Failing to stop as required by these laws constitutes a “hit and run,” and can result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction for the driver depending on the circumstances.
It bears noting that criminal liability for “hit and run” is not necessarily dependent on whether the person who fled the accident scene is entirely (or even partially) at fault. In other words, both drivers in a two-car collision have to stop under California law, regardless of whether they think they caused it.
Why Do Drivers Flee an Accident Scene?
With the law as clear as it is, you might think drivers would not risk prosecution by fleeing an accident scene. But as the statistics cited above show, San Jose hit and run collisions happen all the time. Why? Some of the common reasons below are more excusable than others, but none of them are sufficient to avoid accountability:
- Fear of being held responsible. Some people flee accident scenes in a panic, afraid they are going to get in trouble for causing it. While it may be the case they will face penalties (for instance, if they were driving drunk or high), hit and run drivers only make their potential troubles worse by fleeing.
- Fear of costs/insurance premiums. Similar to drivers hoping to avoid responsibility, some irresponsible citizens flee accident scenes because they do not want to face the financial liability and expenses of remedying an accident. This, too, is a short-sighted reaction, because the costs will be far higher when they get caught.
- Illegal driver. Drivers who do not have a license, or are in the country illegally, may flee an accident because they fear the collateral consequences of staying at an accident scene and being interviewed by law enforcement, regardless of their fault.
- Failure to realize the accident happened. Sometimes, drivers genuinely don’t realize an accident has happened. For example, drivers who strike a pedestrian on a dark road may think they collided with an animal and continue driving.
Regardless of why a driver flees the scene of a San Jose hit and run, however, anyone injured in the accident may have a right to seek compensation from that driver and/or the driver’s insurance company, and should consult with a San Jose hit and run lawyer right away.
What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
What you do in the moments, hours, and days after a San Jose-area accident can be especially important if the responsible driver fled the scene. That is because in addition to the steps anyone should take to keep themselves safe and seek medical care, it is also critical to identify the hit and run driver. Not only is identifying that driver essential to your ability to recover compensation for any injuries and losses, it is also your duty as a good citizen to keep others safe from that driver’s reckless behavior.
With that in mind, here are three important steps we suggest you take after being involved in a San Jose hit and run accident:
- Call 911. It is always expected to call the police to an accident scene, but it is crucial in the moments after a hit and run. Tell the dispatcher everything you were able to observe about the hit and run vehicle—make, model, color, and license plate if you got a good look. The sooner you alert law enforcement to the accident and the hit and run driver, the better the chances the authorities will apprehend the driver, keeping others safe and protecting your rights. Calling 911 will also summon emergency medical responders to treat any injuries.
- Seek medical attention. Say “yes” to the EMT when asked if you want to be examined at the accident scene. In the moments after an accident, especially a hit and run, most people’s adrenaline races, making it difficult to feel the severity of an injury. So, it’s best to let a professional check you out. Then, even if an EMT clears you, schedule an appointment with your regular doctor as soon as you can. EMTs assess people for life-threatening conditions and obvious physical injuries, but your regular doctor can take a closer look at whether the accident did less-obvious harm.
- Call a San Jose hit and run attorney. Hit and runs are not ordinary accidents in the legal sense. They almost always complicate the process of recovering compensation from insurance companies and the fleeing driver. An attorney experienced in representing hit and run accident victims can help.
How An Experienced San Jose Hit and Run Lawyer Can Help
An experienced hit and run accident attorney can help hit and run accident victims and their families in ways that an ordinary car accident attorney might not. That’s because hit and run accidents pose unique problems for victims seeking compensation. Here are several ways in which hiring a San Jose hit and run lawyer can help:
Tracking Down the Hit and Run Driver
As we mentioned above, identifying and locating the hit and run driver may be critical to protecting your rights. An experienced San Jose hit and run attorney knows how to help with this investigation. Keep in mind that law enforcement resources are often strained. Officers may not have the time and bandwidth to commit to finding a driver who fled the scene of your accident, particularly if it did not result in fatalities. A skilled hit and run lawyer, on the other hand, can focus on tracking down surveillance camera footage, interviewing witnesses, and developing information that could lead to the hit and run driver’s identification. Then, your attorney can help you pursue a claim for damages against the driver’s insurance company and/or against the driver personally.
Filing and Negotiating an Uninsured Motorist Claim
In the event the search for the hit and run driver comes up empty, or you find the driver but the driver has no insurance, an experienced San Jose hit and run lawyer can help you pursue an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance carrier (if you carry that coverage on your auto insurance policy). Because of the obvious potential for fraud and abuse, insurance companies often take a harder look at these types of claims. Having an attorney experienced with negotiating with insurance companies and demonstrating that you were, truly, a victim of a hit and run accident, can increase your chances of recovering the compensation the insurer owes you.
Taking Other Legal Action
Just because the accident in which you were injured was a hit and run doesn’t mean the other driver is the only person who may owe you compensation for your injuries and losses. By working with an experienced San Jose hit and run lawyer, you may discover that there are other parties whose actions contributed to the accident, and from whom you may recover damages by filing a claim with their insurer or a legal action in California courts.
Coordinating With Law Enforcement
Because the hit and driver in your accident most likely committed a crime by leaving the scene, you may be interviewed by law enforcement or summoned to testify about the accident in court. An experienced San Jose hit and run attorney can help coordinate between the needs of the authorities in pursuing justice and your interest in protecting your rights to recover compensation.
Work With a San Jose Hit and Run Lawyer
Hit and run victims have every right to feel frustrated and dismayed after an accident, but they should not feel powerless. Even if the police do not apprehend the hit and run driver, victims and their families may still be able to recover the compensation they need from insurance companies and other parties.
An experienced San Jose hit and run lawyer can help. Contact the skilled, resourceful hit and run accident team at Bohn & Fletcher, LLP, today to learn how and to schedule a free consultation. You can reach us at (408) 279-4222, or through our online contact form.