[Content Updated 04/14/2021] Few tragedies remain more disconcerting than irresponsible drivers fleeing the scene of a motorcycle accident. In traffic laws, a hit-and-run is an act of causing a traffic accident and not stopping afterward to exchange insurance and contact information. It is considered an additional crime on top of any other laws broken before fleeing the accident scene in most jurisdictions and venues. I am Michael Ehline, an award-winning Los Angeles-based motorcycle accident attorney. Below I will go into detail about statistics of being hurt while riding, your legal rights, duties, and obligations in a motorcycle-related hit and run accident in L.A.
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A hit-and-run accident with a motorcycle is much more likely to result in death or severe injury to the motorcycle’s occupants. Because of this, anytime the defendant flees the accident scene, the prosecutors’ office may bring a felony case. As we will discuss, two basic types of duties exist for motorists in a vehicle collision. Your duty in a case involving property is damage is less than in situations where the crash results in permanent impairment of a person’s bodily member or organ’s function. In that case, you must render reasonable aid and provide identifying information. And motorists in accidents must also self-report to the police in certain instances.
In March 2016, Robert Kovacik and Phil Drechsler published a blockbuster traffic data study dealing with hit and runs in Los Angeles.
“The I-Team examined data reported to the California Highway Patrol on all hit-and-run cases in Los Angeles County for 2015. More than 28,000 reported hit-and-run crashes during that year occurred over a widespread area of the county at an alarming rate, and 50 percent of all incidents in Los Angeles County are hit-and-run cases.” (Source).
Kovacik and Dreschler used California Highway Patrol study data to find Los Angeles hit-and-run motorcycle collisions had approached “epidemic” levels. Their report determined that about every 18 minutes, there was a motorcycle hit and run case.
Logically, one would assume that a scared or frightened vehicle driver would want to stay out of hot water and not be jailed or sued. But, as will be discussed, sometimes people are drunk, uninsured, or doing something else that could land them in jail. Escaped prisoners and parole violators come to mind as the typical flight risk causing personal injuries.
But all spectrums of society are potential scofflaws. Even rich people make mistakes and get into accidents with motorcycles. For example, they drive distracted, tired, drunk, or under the influence of drugs just like anyone else may. The speed blows through red lights and rolls out of driveways without looking backward.
They drive unlicensed and uninsured. The results are devastating when cars and motorcycles collide. If a hit-and-run driver has impacted you or a loved one, contact a Law Firm to help track down the perpetrator and see that you are compensated for your losses.
“Most hit-and-run cases do not involve injuries, according to the data. They often involve a driver striking a parked vehicle, then leaving the scene.”
Also, anytime another driver leaves a fallen rider scene, the defenseless, wounded person is much more likely to be run over by another vehicle. Despite having a duty to stop and exchange info, Good Samaritan laws or not, basic civics and humanity dictate that at-fault drivers stay at the accident scene. Plus, they must provide necessary security and comfort to the fallen victim.
In California, leaving the scene could easily subject the wrongdoer to jail time. Even if the injuries and damage to the property are not significant, huge penalty assessments and fines often follow. Although motorcycle hit and runs are common to mainland Los Angeles, as recently as 2019, at least one fleeing the scene motorcycle crash happened on Catalina Island.
Courts, police, and civil and criminal plaintiffs all call this same event a hit and run. In other words, it is a crime and forms the basis of a civil lawsuit in negligence. In any event, all riding incidents are potentially devastating. But vehicle strikes are far more dastardly to a less protected motorcyclist than occupants of an enclosed vehicle with seatbelts.
Michael Ehline of Ehline Law Firm is the motorcycle rider’s friend. As a rider himself, he wants to provide helpless feeling victims with a sense of confidence. Their life is not over. And despite the anonymous nature of the assault, there is legal hope for economic recovery.
The information below will help people deal with the terrible aftermath of a bad spill on a motorbike.
Under the California Vehicle Code (“CVC”), the criminal charges for running over a motorcyclist can be:
Felony – Under Vehicle Code Section 20001.
It is a felony for a motorist to flee the wreck scene when another person has been killed or suffered a personal injury. As noted, drivers must stop and render reasonable aid to any injured persons regardless of whether there is a Good Samaritan statute. (See below for full statute).
Misdemeanor – Under Vehicle Code Section 20002.
It is a misdemeanor in property damage only case to block traffic and not exchange identifying information. (See below for full statute).
In a nutshell, to be charged, found guilty, and convicted of hit and run, the prosecutor must show that while driving, the defendant:
The legal definition of a felony hit-and-run under the California Vehicle Code (“CVC”) is as follows:
“California Vehicle Code Section 20001. (a) The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004. (b) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (2) If the accident described in subdivision (a) results in death or permanent, serious injury, a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than 90 days nor more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. However, the court, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment required by this paragraph. (3) In imposing the minimum fine required by this subdivision, the court shall take into consideration the defendant’s ability to pay the fine and, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce the amount of that minimum fine to less than the amount otherwise required by this subdivision. (c) A person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of Section 191.5 of, or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 192 of the Penal Code, upon conviction of any of those sections, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state prison. This additional term shall not be imposed unless the allegation is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact. The court shall not strike a finding that brings a person within the provisions of this subdivision or an allegation made pursuant to this subdivision. (d) As used in this section, “permanent, serious injury” means the loss or permanent impairment of function of a bodily member or organ. (Amended by Stats. 2007, Ch. 747, Sec. 30. Effective January 1, 2008.)”
“California Vehicle Code Section 20003 (2017) (a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall also give his or her name, current residence address, the names and current residence addresses of any occupant of the driver’s vehicle injured in the accident, the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and the name and current residence address of the owner to the person struck or the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, and shall give the information to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident. The driver also shall render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including transporting, or making arrangements for transporting, any injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if that transportation is requested by any injured person. (b) Any driver or injured occupant of a driver’s vehicle subject to the provisions of subdivision (a) shall also, upon being requested, exhibit his or her driver’s license, if available, or, in the case of an injured occupant, any other available identification, to the person struck or to the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, and to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident. (Amended by Stats. 1994, Ch. 1247, Sec. 9. Effective January 1, 1995.)”
Yes, as noted above and explained below in detail, drivers in accidents must take affirmative steps not to be charged with a crime.
Felony Hit And Run Reporting Duties:
California Vehicle Code Section 20004 States:
“In the event of death of any person resulting from an accident, the driver of any vehicle involved after fulfilling the requirements of this division, and if there be no traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident to whom to give the information required by Section 20003, shall, without delay, report the accident to the nearest office of the Department of the California Highway Patrol or office of a duly authorized police authority and submit with the report the information required by Section 20003. (Enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3.)”
The legal definition of a misdemeanor hit-and-run, as well as the driver’s duties, are combined into one section under the California Vehicle Code (“CVC”) is as follows:
California Vehicle Code Section 20002. (a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists. Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault. The driver shall also immediately do either of the following: (1) Locate and notify the owner or person in charge of that property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle involved and, upon locating the driver of any other vehicle involved or the owner or person in charge of any damaged property, upon being requested, present his or her driver’s license, and vehicle registration, to the other driver, property owner, or person in charge of that property. The information presented shall include the current residence address of the driver and of the registered owner. If the registered owner of an involved vehicle is present at the scene, he or she shall also, upon request, present his or her driver’s license information, if available, or other valid identification to the other involved parties. (2) Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property damaged a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances thereof and shall without unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision occurred or, if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol. (b) Any person who parks a vehicle which, prior to the vehicle again being driven, becomes a runaway vehicle and is involved in an accident resulting in damage to any property, attended or unattended, shall comply with the requirements of this section relating to notification and reporting and shall, upon conviction thereof, be liable to the penalties of this section for failure to comply with the requirements. (c) Any person failing to comply with all the requirements of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (Amended by Stats. 2001, Ch. 825, Sec. 16. Effective January 1, 2002.) (Source).
As noted above, it is chargeable as a crime to leave the scene of an accident without taking statutorily prescribed steps. Whether there are physical injuries or property damage or not, a responsible motorist must stop and make sure everyone involved is alright. If the motorcyclist is not present when another vehicle hits the bike, the driver must leave a note with contact information if the damage is presumed to be worth more than $1,000.
Amazingly, since 2009, over 50% of all vehicle-related crashes are hit and runs in Los Angeles County. Contrasting the City of Angels with the nation as a whole, we readily understand why Los Angeles is at an epidemic level for hit-and-run collisions. After all, the national average for hit-and-run accidents is 11%. Greater Los Angeles hit-and-runs have been happening at historical rates since 2009.
That year alone, at least 48% of all reported vehicular incidents were hit-and-run type accidents (Source.) According to the CHP, someone in L.A. is in a hit and run approximately every 18 minutes. As noted above, there were more than 28,000 Los Angeles County hit-and-run collisions in 2016. In that same year in Los Angeles County, approximately 4,000 people were severely hurt, maimed, or in hit-and-runs, many of which included motorcycle accidents.
|Alcohol Involvement||Fatal||Severe Injury||Visible Injury||Complaint of Pain||Total|
Sadly, in most cases, the violent and sudden manner in which these strikes occur makes it nearly impossible for most motorcycle accident victims to provide an accurate description of the hit and run driver. So for most riders, unless some drastic and rapid investigations get undertaken immediately, there will be no wrongdoer to sue.
Sometimes you get lucky, and the government of the City of L.A. or another identifiable person was responsible, and they can pay. But either way, figuring it out requires immediacy in action.
But there are many more causes of motorcycle accidents discussed here.
So what should the injured rider do? Where does he or she turn for help? Well, as always, we recommend getting medically stable before doing anything else. As a victim, you have a duty not to exacerbate your injuries. Failing to get well, just because you think there is no one to pay for your care, is a bad move.
Of course, if you are clear-headed and capable, you must try and remember the license plate info, write down names of people who saw the event, as well as their contact info, and call 9-1-1 to seek to capture the fleeing suspect.
But, as in most cases, if you can’t assemble these details right then and there, your motorcycle attorney should be able to assist you. Because of this, you can rapidly hire an accident reconstructionist, investigator, and forensic expert.
So now they can assist in obtaining surveillance tapes and names or percipient witnesses. Also, they can canvass those who live or work in the locale, and so on. Most of all, this can mean the difference in assisting law enforcement in capturing the evil-doer rapidly and having him or her “pay up.”
Once the bad actor is hunted down, captured, and prosecuted or plea-bargained out, the court will order restitution payments, even if there is no insurance. But good luck getting a convicted criminal on a prison bus headed to the jailor, at home, on probation wearing an ankle monitor to pay. First off, most lawbreakers are not in the propertied class. Many of these types of people have nothing to lose in their minds eye.
But there are often other responsible parties we can hold to answer for the costs. For example, a FedEx truck driver who fled the scene or a pizza delivery guy’s boss can be legally liable. Lawyers use a theory of liability called the doctrine of respondent superior to make this happen.
Although the above Latin name sounds cool, all it means is that the master is generally liable for his servants’ acts while the servant is working within the course and scope of employment and not engaged in some frolic or detour.
Hit-and-run accident verdicts and settlements are always fact-dependent. Typically, the formula used by insurance companies and juries will be (1) discerning and defining the comparative fault of each party and assigning each person’s percentage. For example, the plaintiff is 30% at fault and the defendant 70% liable. (2) Next, the parties must determine the extent and severity of injury and losses. For example, will it require long-term care, did it result in a permanent injury or death?
Weighing all of the facts, evidence, and believe-ability of the parties and the experts, the next step is to consider intangibles like pain and suffering and place a value. These are called general damages and tend to make up a large portion of the overall payout. But the jury also considers special economic losses like the past, present, and future pain and suffering.
In other words, each victim is unique, and the myth of the three times the medical bill’s formula is an insurance industry myth. Therefore, there is no silver bullet in determining a personal injury payout in a motorcycle hit and run accident—the best way to get an idea to hire a lawyer and do a case workup.
Yes, the general idea is getting a bulk amount of cash from the person or persons who caused your injuries. Irrespective of who is paying, these money damages will include things like expenses for physical therapy, doctor’s visits, lost past and present wages, and other income and the lack of productivity, such as when you are partially disabled and slowed in your normal pace.
Of course, in cases like bike wrecks, often gruesome injuries like peeled back skin are present. Also, the attendant bad rashes from friction and asphalt burns remain excruciatingly painful. The upside to your lawyer’s case is that a significant damages component in PI law is pain and suffering.
And clearly, anything affecting your nerve endings is going to be very, very painful. Sadly, the attendant pain management therapy alone becomes quite costly over time. This past, present, and future loss should get reimbursed by the defendants. Your lawyer knows this will be part of your award for the enumerated economic damages.
So the above damages are designed to compensate and try and make a person whole or indemnify. But of course, the aftermath of a hit and run has dollar signs attached when seeking a damages award from a court or jury. But if the case is intentional or extremely reckless, more issues come into play. For example, in a highly intoxicated driver, the trier can award the downed rider damages designed to PUNISH.
But these remain unusual “punitive damages.” So in extraordinary cases, the assailant may pay out a mother lode to the victim.
Besides getting money to repair, replace or cover diminished value, personal injuries may require long-term medical care like a nurse, special wheelchair standard lifts, and maybe even a special handicapped person van, etc. Most of these monetary payments will cover injuries like:
Our law firm just recently won a motorcycle accident victim over $10 million. Most of all, we are legit motorcycle lawyers with high industry and customer accolades. Are you ready to lose that zero lawyer and hire yourself a hero lawyer with the gravitas to win? If so, don’t call anyone until you speak with Mr. Michael Ehline. So if you are ready for that, an outspoken and warmhearted advocate, contact Ehline Law Firm at (213) 596-9642 and find out more about your rights to compensation from an honest, Los Angeles-based accident lawyer.
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