Woodland Hills car accident lawyer Barry P. Goldberg is an expert on all things “hit and run.” For years, Barry P. Goldberg has written numerous articles regarding accessing Uninsured Motorist benefits whenever a deserving client is injured in a hit and run accident. However, very little has been written on how to actually STOP the hit and run epidemic in Los Angeles. There are several things we can do as a community to drastically reduce hit and run accidents in Los Angeles— Report and Reward!
Why we have a hit and run problem.
Of course, the mechanics of a hit and run are very simple. A car hits another care, bicycle, motorcycle or pedestrian. Rather than stop and face the consequences, the at fault driver decides to drive off hoping he or she will not be identified or caught. Maybe, people thing there can be some plausible deniability. I do not know. However, the problem is more deeply rooted in California’s Financial Responsibility Laws and liability insurance dis-function.
In California, there exists a confluence of uninsured and underinsured drivers. It is estimated that almost 20% of all California drivers have no insurance whatsoever. If an uninsured driver is in an accident, under the Financial Responsibility Laws, a SR-1 Form must be filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Failure to file that form (whether you have insurance or not) will result in an immediate suspension of driving privileges for one year. If an SR-1 form is filed and no liability insurance is found, then there is an immediate suspension of driving privileges for one year.
Is it really any wonder why there are so many hit and runs? Millions of California drivers do not want an immediate suspension of driving privileges for one year. So, they run.
The corollary to the “uninsured” problem is the “underinsured motorist” problem. In California, most drivers only obtain a minimum policy in order to drive legally in the state. That minimum of $15,000 liability per person, $30,000 per claim and $5,000 property damage liability is grossly inadequate for most significant accidents. Anecdotal evidence suggests that at least half of California’s motoring public carries only the minimum.
Not a surprise that the minimum is grossly inadequate. In fact, the minimum was established in 1974—and has not been adjusted since! In short, there is simply no stomach in California to raise the minimums in line with other states because of the huge number of uninsured motorists. Raising the minimum will raise the rates. Raising the rates will increase the number of uninsured motorists!
When a driver carrying the minimum, is in an accident, the otherwise responsible person fears that he or she will never be able to pay for the losses especially if the crash is with a motorcyclist, bicyclist or pedestrian. So, they run.
The Solution—Report and Reward!
When most California motorists witness an accident, we do not want to stop and get involved. We hope that someone else will come forward as a witness—“it is not my responsibility!” Further, we are all on a tight schedule. We do not want to wait for the police. We do not want to be called into court. We just want to go on with our day!
Most Los Angeles motorists are not aware that there are significant reward opportunities for coming forward, helping out and being a good neighbor. With hand held cell phone cameras in virtually everybody’s hands, a reward could be as easy as snapping a picture of a license plate!
To help stem the rising tide of hit and run accidents, on April 15, 2015, the City Council amended the Los Angeles Administrative Code and created a Hit and Run Reward Program Trust Fund. A reward of up to $50,000 is available to community members who provide information leading to the offender’s identification, apprehension, and conviction or resolution through a civil compromise.
It is actually fairly easy and straight-forward. Anyone with information about a hit and run collision is asked to contact Officer E. Zelaya, Central Traffic Division, at (213) 833-3713, or (424) 363-5227. Not difficult! During non-business hours or on weekends, the calls should be directed to the Central Traffic Division Watch Commander at 213-846-8486, as well as 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247).
Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org. Hit and Run Tipsters may also visit www.lapdonline.org and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu to submit an online tip. Lastly, hit and run tipsters may also download the “P3 Tips” mobile application and select the LA Regional Crime Stoppers as their local program.
So, we must develop a culture of responsibility. Cell phone cameras should make this relatively simple. When people realize that rewards are there for the taking, more and more people will get involved. Then, drivers will begin to think twice before attempting to run. Let’s work together on this!
Remember that your Uninsured Motorist Insurance will protect you!
If no hit and runner is found, Barry P. Goldberg or another experienced car accident lawyer can help you access your own Uninsured Motorist Insurance. Many people are still unaware that Uninsured Motorist coverage applies even when you are not in your car!