More than one hit-and-run crash happens in the United States every minute, according to AAA. Since 2009, hit-and-run fatalities have increased at an average rate of 7% each year. The majority of hit-and-run fatalities involve pedestrians and bicyclists.
Drivers who flee the scene of a crash often do so because they are:
- Under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and don't want to get caught
- Fleeing from police
- Committing a crime or have an arrest warrant
- Driving a stolen car
Lawmakers to toughen hit-and-run laws
A California Assembly Bill (AB582) was proposed in 2019 and is now being read for the first time in the Senate. The bill was named Gavin's Law after Gavin Gladding, a Fresno man who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2018. He was a husband, father of two, and the principal of a Fresno elementary school.
The hit-and-run occurred in the early morning hours when Gladding was training for a marathon. The 18-year-old driver who struck Gladding took off but turned himself in days later.
Gladding's family recently visited Sacramento to show support for AB582. The Assembly Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the bill. The victim's family believes that the hit-and-run driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. There was no evidence that he was drunk since he took off.
Hit-and-run vs. drunk driving
It is illegal to leave the scene of a crash in California under vehicle code 20001. The penalties for violating this law include:
- Up to one year in prison or county jail
- A fine no less than $1,000 and no greater than $10,000
- Both incarceration and a fine
A drunk driver who causes a crash in California will face more legal consequences than one who flees the scene, however. Here is the difference:
- A drunk driver who kills another person can face up to 10 years in prison.
- A drunk driver who kills another person and flees the scene of the crash may only face up to four years in prison.
AB582 would impose harsher penalties for hit-and-run drivers. Drivers who cause fatal hit-and-runs could face up to six years in prison if the bill becomes law.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (D - Fresno) is the bill's author.
"We're hoping that people even in a difficult circumstance will be human beings about it," said Patterson. "Stay at the scene, call 911, try to assist. Don't run, hide the evidence, and try to get off without any kind of penalty."
Why consult with an attorney?
A hit-and-run crash can be very frustrating, especially if you're not able to identify the driver who hit you. You may still be able to recover damages accrued from your crash, even if you can't ID the driver. You must carry uninsured motorist coverage, however. Under California Insurance Code section 11580.2, this would cover both bodily injury and property damage.
It's always best to consult with an experienced car accident attorney after any crash. If you're not sure how uninsured motorist coverage applies to your crash, the Law Offices of Daniel C. Carlton can help. We have advocated for injured people for more than 40 years, including those hurt in hit-and-run crashes. Contact us online to learn more.