The Devastating Impact of Hit-and-Run Accidents
Hit-and-run accidents may seem like the crux of a movie or TV show plot, but far from being a fictional construct, this particular type of traffic accident is very real—and one that kills more people in California than in any other state. As you might imagine, it injures hundreds of thousands more, with effects ranging from minor scrapes and bruises to near-complete incapacitation.
Of course, most folks who are victims of hit-and-run accidents experience injuries that lie somewhere in the middle. That's to say nothing of the emotional effects, like PTSD, that can be very difficult to cope with after a hit-and-run.
Are you in that position? Take a deep breath, then read on; in this article, we'll provide basic information about hit-and-run accidents, help you understand the position you're in right now, and advise you about the next steps.
The Most Common Hit-and-Run Accident Injuries
The injuries that people sustain in hit-and-run accidents are similar to those of all vehicular accidents. Depending on the rate of speed, where the impact occurred relative to the plaintiff's car (i.e., being rear-ended, T-boned, hit head-on, etc.), and other factors, these injuries could include:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries, including Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
- Back pain and other issues related to the spine
- Internal bleeding or damage to the internal organs
- Extensive scarring or disfigurement
Another common outcome of being injured in any car crash is post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Don't underestimate the emotional harm that can come from an unfortunate accident, even if there are few physical problems. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of PTSD, and seek treatment if you are struggling to overcome them.
It's important to understand that not all injuries that result from an accident are immediately apparent or symptomatic. Spinal injuries, cognitive impairment, and other medical conditions can develop days, weeks, or even months following the initial mishap.
Definition of Hit-and-run Offenses
Hit-and-run accident law is outlined in California Vehicle Code Sections 20001 (involving injuries or death) and 20002 (involving only property damage). Essentially, it says that whenever a driver has been involved in an accident, they must take a few actions, including but not limited to pulling over as soon and as safely as possible, stopping their vehicle, remaining on the scene, and awaiting the arrival of law enforcement officers. If the accident only impacted property—someone sideswiped your parked car, for example, it's considered a hit-and-run if they do not leave their contact information.
Steps to Take After a Hit-and-run Accident
It's bad enough to be involved in any kind of car accident. Even if your injuries are minor, this traumatic event can leave you feeling shaken and out of sorts.
However, being the victim of a hit-and-run accident is even worse. You may feel intensely violated, knowing that the person who hurt you and damaged your vehicle isn't even going to take responsibility for their behavior. And it's not uncommon to feel a desire to enact revenge on that individual, as well. If you are feeling that, know that it's a common response. In time, you will be able to forgive them; don't beat yourself up about it if you don't feel that way immediately!
Instead, focus on the practical steps to take now that can help you tremendously in the future:
- Contact the authorities. It's crucial to do this even if all parties are on site. A hit-and-run scenario, however, makes this step even more important. Wait at the scene for first responders to arrive; allow EMTs or paramedics to examine and treat you.
- Get checked out by your doctor or go to an urgent care clinic for evaluation if you weren't evaluated by medical personnel at the scene. This is essential, even if you don't feel like you have been hurt. Plenty of injuries can manifest later in the coming days or weeks.
- Gather as much evidence as you can. Take photos or video of the scene, the vehicle(s), any road or weather conditions that might have impacted the accident, and any visible injuries to you or others. Take down witnesses' contact information, too. Naturally, you'll want to find out if any bystanders saw identifying details of the person who hit you—details about their appearance, a description of the vehicle, license plate number, and even the direction they were headed.
- Contact an attorney. Simply scheduling a consultation doesn't necessarily mean you must begin a lawsuit. At this point, you are just gathering information. Knowing what others have done in your situation and what options are available for you is helpful as you plan for your future. Reputable attorneys will offer a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.
Being the victim of a hit-and-run accident can lead to a lifetime of difficulty: emotional trauma, physical pain, and even lingering feelings of resentment, anger, or bitterness. One way to combat these negative possibilities is to seek legal help. You could be entitled to compensation, but even having your situation acknowledged as painful and debilitating will help you feel better.
To learn what options are available to you, make an appointment to consult with an experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate attorney who specializes in working with hit-and-run accident victims, such as Attorney Inna Gorin.