David G. Smith
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How to Protect Yourself in a Hit-and-run

Bobby Boucher, a 28-year-old Pittsburg resident, was riding his motorcycle on Leland Road when the driver of a 2010 Ford Fusion sedan hit and killed him.

The hit-and-run driver, 25-year-old Angelo Childs, and a passenger tried to flee the scene on foot, but witnesses followed and directed police their way.

motocycle rider.jpg

Many times during a hit-and-run accident, the driver speeds away before anyone can catch him. Other times, the hit-and-run driver leaves behind incriminating evidence for the police.

On more than one occasion a defendant's license plate fell off during a hit-and-run, so we could identify that person for my client in a personal injury case. Funny, they thought they were getting away with something, but they left behind some pretty incriminating evidence!

If you've been injured in a hit-and-run collision, don't assume you don't have a case because you can't identify the driver. Here are a few reminders and tips for filing a claim in a hit-and-run.

1. Get as much information as you can about the vehicle, including make, model, and, if possible, license plate number.

2. Seek out any possible witnesses. Get their name and contact information.

3. Look at your surroundings. Take photos of the accident scene and your car. Often your vehicle will have paint streaks where the collision occurred. Look for any car parts or, like a few of my clients, license plates left behind. Also see if there are any operational video cameras nearby, such as at an ATM or a nearby retail establishment.

4. Don't chase the offending driver in your car. You may cause a second accident or prompt the driver to retaliate. You don't know if the driver has a weapon.

5. Instead, call the police as soon as possible and file an accident report. The police report serves as evidence and will ease the claims process with your insurer.

Why you need a personal injury lawyer

Your uninsured motorist coverage applies in hit-and-run collisions. Ideally, the insurer would pay you the most reasonable maximum amount. That's not always the case. Insurance adjusters look for ways to deny or limit the amount you can recover.

A personal injury lawyer will help you calculate lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other damages that apply to your claim. The personal injury lawyer will then negotiate on your behalf to ensure you receive a fair settlement from your insurance company.

If your insurer still refuses to compensate you fairly, the claim moves to arbitration. Arbitration cases are presented before an arbitrator, and decisions are final. This is definitely a time when it pays to have a lawyer by your side. Although it's not as involved as a jury trial, arbitration is a complex proceeding, especially for a nonlawyer.

It's beyond frustrating to be a hit-and-run victim. By getting as much evidence as possible at the scene (keep an eye out for lost license plates!) you can help streamline the process for your insurer and your lawyer.

Photo courtesy of Frank Boston, Flickr

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
2201 Broadway
Suite 506
Oakland, CA 94612

Phone: 925-308-6484
Fax: 510-893-2701
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