Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hit and STAY!

Although this seems very basic to most people, if you are involved in an accident, whether you believe the accident to be your fault or not, legally you must follow certain protocols. After the accident you are required by law to contact (or attempt to contact) the individual you collided with, exchange California Driver's licenses, contact information, and insurance information. If you fail to do this, even if the accident is NOT your fault, you could be charged with a crime. In the event, the other party is no where to be found (ie you collide with a parked car) you are required to place a note with the aforementioned information on a note and attach it to the vehicle.

Unfortunately, when many of us are involved in an accident we go into panic mode. Many people fail to think clearly and realize one important thing: the crime involved is NOT hitting the other individual, the crime is running. About 95% of the hit-and-run cases I have handled involved parties with insurance; so if they simply would have followed the law, they would not have been subjected to criminal charges. If you are caught and convicted of the crime it could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount of damage in the accident. Such crimes could subject you not only to jail time, but also consequences on your driving record, insurance, and your professional licensure as well.

The other night, my partner and I were getting ready to call it a night. I received a call where an individual had just accidentally hit and substantially injured an individual on a bicycle. As his actions were unintentional, and the incident had only recently occurred, I instructed him to return to the scene and exchange information with the individual and avoid the drama and tremendous expense, of potentially being arrested. He then told me that he infact had returned back to the accident scene in an attempt to make sure no one could identify him and find out if the person was hurt. Once he found out the person was substantially injured, he freaked out and decided to leave. He then told me he was a DOCTOR.

As less then twenty minutes elapsed since the incident, I told him to go back or at least contact the police and inform them of the incident to avoid possible hit and run charges as well as potentially facing action against his license to practice medicine. Although I reminded him the crime was not the accident, but not taking responsibility for it and also told him if he was caught his life would be a great deal worse. Additionally, he would have to live with his conscious for the rest of his life. He told me he would think about it, but I could tell he was not thinking clearly and did not follow my instruction. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon call I receive.

Last, it is important to place yourself or someone you care about in the "victim's" position. Personally over the last 10 years I have experience 2 rather serious hit and run injuries to my car while it was parked and my partner was almost killed in an accident where the individual ran. If you are involved in such an accident, generally you have no reason to run, as you most likely will not be charged with any sort of crime, is it really worth the risk and expense of getting caught?

If you have any questions about this matter or any other legal matter or referral please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Carl Simons at (310) 749-4529.