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We lead busy lives here in Orange County. But a disturbing trend is developing here in California that is tarnishing our otherwise good reputation of being a compassionate community. We are now known for the highest rate of hit and run fatalities in the country-around 8%–twice the national average! On average, there are approximately 700,000 hit and run accidents in the United States each year. California does have the largest population and car ownership, and also the most unlicensed and uninsured drivers.

A typical example that occurred just this week when a 9 year old Los Angeles boy was killed when he was walking with his family as they were coming home from a party. The driver, driving at such a high rate of speed; never stopped to help and quite possibly, even was so oblivious that he did not know what was happening.

Hit and run accidents can range from the typical dents in your car in a parking lot, to leaving the scene of an accident involving a pedestrian, bicyclist or automobile. Whatever the scenario, these are growing trends that can be your worst nightmare if you are involved in one of these accidents. Innocent parties usually become the victims twice; the first in the accident, and then, although innocent, must pay for the other driver’s irresponsibility. Even though most responsible driver’s carry some form of liability insurance, the state ordered minimum insurance policy only covers the costs of damage that you may inflict on another driver in an automobile accident. This will not cover the damage to you or your vehicle. It’s probably a good idea to check with your insurance carrier to make sure you have the best coverage possible, including adding uninsured motorist and additional medical coverage.

An investigation done by a California newspaper concludes that over 50% of hit and run drivers have suspended, revoked or expired licenses or no license to begin with. Other reasons include driver impairment by drugs or alcohol, distractions, street racing, auto theft, or just aggressive road rage-type driving. This is a huge problem in California; specifically in Orange County and surrounding counties in Southern California. If you have sustained personal injury due to the negligence of a hit and run driver, don’t hesitate to call an experienced personal injury attorney. A good attorney will always assist you through the insurance procedure and inform you of your rights.

Just to recap, if you are a California driver involved in an accident, whether there were injuries or not, you are required by law to stop and exchange information with the other driver. If someone has sustained an injury, the driver has a duty to stay and give reasonable assistance to the injured. Depending on the seriousness of the accident, law enforcement can charge the hit and run driver with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the extent of the damage and injuries.

Remember to drive defensively and stay alert and if the unthinkable happens, always stop and investigate.