You pay for auto insurance because you need it to drive legally. California offers a few exceptions to this rule, but they’re rare. That means, unless you leave a deposit of $35,000 with the DMV or can present a $35,000 surety bond, you need an insurance policy that meets certain standards.
The minimum liability limits on your insurance exist to protect people. They offer you some protection from financial damages, but they mostly serve to protect anyone you injure in a collision. If you hit someone, your insurance helps them recover. But who pays for your injuries if the driver who hits you doesn’t stop? Who pays the bills after a hit-and-run?
California has a problem with hit-and-runs
Why does it matter who pays for hit-and-run injuries? Because the problem is far too common, especially in California. According to ValuePenguin’s analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records:
- Hit-and-run fatalities rose by 44 percent throughout the decade from 2010 to 2019
- California saw 17 percent of the nation’s hit-and-run fatalities, more than any other state
- Hit-and-runs in California averaged 104 deaths per 100 crashes, meaning the collisions resulted in an average of just over one death per incident
- Young adults were the most frequent victims with people between the ages of 25 and 34 accounting for just over one-fifth of all hit-and-run fatalities
Of course, these records don’t account for non-fatal hit-and-run injuries. Those add even more misery to the picture. And they add even more guilty drivers who take off without sharing their insurance information.
How injury victims can pursue compensation after a hit-and-run
It’s illegal for drivers to flee the scene after an accident. That means victims might find some justice when authorities prosecute the guilty drivers. However, if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run injury, you’re still going to need to pay your bills. There are generally two ways you can pursue your compensation.
First, you can sue the guilty driver. Although you may not know the driver’s identity at the time of the crash, there are ways you can pursue it. Some of your options may include:
- Police reports
- Eyewitness accounts
- Red light cameras
- DMV info
Police catch many hit-and-run drivers. To do this, they may coordinate searches and offer rewards for good leads. The effort often takes weeks or months, but once you have a name, you can take legal action.
Your second option may be to seek compensation through your own insurance policy. If you don’t learn the name of the guilty driver, or if the driver didn’t carry insurance, you might turn to your policy’s uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM).
You can act now to protect yourself later
You cannot know when a driver might slam into you and then speed away. You cannot know how badly you or a family member might suffer from the crash. But there are a couple things you do know:
- Many hit-and-run cases go unsolved
- The guilty drivers in hit-and-runs often don’t carry insurance or don’t carry enough to cover your injuries
Together, these facts point toward one of the best steps you can take to protect yourself in case of a hit-and-run: Make sure you have UMC/UIM as part of your insurance policy. You may need some help to convince your insurance to pay, but at least you’ll have the option.