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Hit-and-run coverage in California

Protect yourself from this common California car accident.

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Insurance companies don’t offer coverage specifically for hit-and-runs in California. But look to pay for your car’s damage under other types of car insurance coverage.

What is considered a hit-and-run in California?

A hit-and-run in the state means that a driver left an accident scene after knowingly damaging someone else’s property or injuring a person. Drivers who hit someone’s property without the owner around should identify themselves instead — such as by leaving a note to avoid getting tagged with a hit-and-run.

What are the hit-and-run laws in California?

Since the state has such a problem with this type of accident, California enforces strict penalties for it. Those include:

  • Property damage penalties. Under California law, willfully leaving an accident after damaging property is considered a misdemeanor. Property damage may include cars, mailboxes or even pets. Drivers could receive a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail for this crime.
  • Bodily injury penalties. Leaving an accident scene after injuring or killing a person can be deemed a misdemeanor or felony by the state. A misdemeanor could mean a fine between $1,000 to $10,000 and up to one year of jail time. A felony can result in the same fine, plus 1.5 to four years in state prison, depending on the injury’s severity.

Do I need coverage for hit-and-runs in California?

Making sure your policy covers hit-and-runs in California may be a good idea. The Golden State has a less than a golden record when it comes to this type of accident. Having car insurance coverage for hit-and-runs could offset damage if this unfortunate situation happens to you.

California has one of the highest totals for hit-and-run deaths in the nation, numbering 337 in 2016, according to a AAA report for 2016. By comparison, Texas had 233 deaths and Florida had 206.

What should I do after a hit-and-run in California?

After reporting the accident to police, you can try to get your insurance company to cover the hit-and-run. Consider these methods:

  • Report the driver responsible. If you can identify the driver or vehicle responsible to the police, you can get liability coverage from that driver’s insurance.
  • File a damage claim. If you don’t know who caused the damage, you could file a damage claim using your collision coverage. Collision averages about $290 per year nationwide, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Depending on where you live in California, you might expect a higher rate for large areas like San Francisco. In many states, you would file with your underinsured motorist coverage, but California actually prohibits hit-and-runs from getting filed under this coverage. That also means you’ll probably be responsible for paying your collision deductible, even though you didn’t cause the accident.
  • File a personal injury claim. Injuries caused by an unknown driver might get covered under medical payments or personal injury protection, if you have these added to your policy. Adding medical payments to your policy might only cost an extra $5 per month. If you don’t, your personal health insurance should spring into action here.

Does uninsured motorist cover hit-and-runs?

No, California doesn’t allow uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage to apply in hit-and-run situations.

How to make a claim for a hit-and-run in California

In many cases, you may have to make a hit-and-run claim against your own insurance. Since California doesn’t allow underinsured motorist coverage to pay for this incident, you may need to file under collision. To make a claim:

  1. Get medical attention. First and foremost, you’ll want anyone needing emergency treatment to get cleared by a doctor.
  2. Gather details. Write down as many details about the accident, driver and car as possible.
  3. Contact your insurer. Report the accident details using your insurer’s online customer account, mobile app or by calling your agent.
  4. Pay your deductible. A collision claim typically requires you to pay your deductible, such as $500 or $1,000, before insurance kicks in.
  5. Get your settlement and car repairs. Finalize claim details with your adjuster and receive your settlement check in the mail or let your insurer pay for repairs directly.

What accident details should I report?

To jog your memory about the hit-and-run, you can focus on details such as:

  • The driver’s car description, such as color, size, model, bumper stickers and other personalizations
  • Vehicle license plate number, even if partial
  • Driver description, such as height, hair color, estimated weight and clothing
  • Evidence left behind
  • Photos of accident scene
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Accident events

Bottom line

California has a high number of hit-and-run accidents compared to other states, which may make coverage for this accident worth the cost. However, you might need to verify with your insurer which type of coverage protects you from this incident.

Consider several providers for their hit-and-run protection and cost to make sure you’re getting the best value.

Questions about hit-and-runs and insurance in California

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