Hakim Injury Law: Hit-and-Runs in California

California Hit-and-Runs: Does Uninsured Motorist Insurance Provide Coverage?

May 08, 2024

In a word, yes. Generally, if compensation, or maximum compensation, is unavailable elsewhere, a driver’s UM/UIM (uninsured or underinsured motorist) policy applies. 

These policies are usually good investments. Premiums are usually low and coverage limits are usually high. Additionally, California has one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers in the county. Moreover, the Golden State has one of the country’s lowest auto insurance minimum requirements. In other words, most drivers are uninsured or underinsured.

Maximum compensation in a car crash case usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

As outlined below, especially if the victim has UM/UIM coverage, a Los Angeles Motorcycle Crash Attorney usually has multiple legal options, even in hit-and-run cases. These options usually have some pros and cons. So, a thorough case evaluation is important. Open communication is important as well. Although your lawyer does most of the work, your lawyer should never leave you in the dark.

Complete or Supplemental Coverage

Uninsured motorists often run away from accident scenes, as outlined below. If they remain, a UM/UIM policy might be the only source of compensation. Most people are effectively judgment-proof. Very few people have tens of thousands of dollars in cash that a victim can seize to satisfy a judgment. Additionally, most personal injury judgments are dischargeable in bankruptcy.

We said UM/UIM “might be” the only option because there might be others as well. California has very broad vicarious liability laws. Some examples include:

  • Respondeat Superior:  This rule usually applies if a truck driver, taxi driver, Uber driver, or other commercial driver caused the crash. Employers are financially responsible for damages if their employees are negligent during the course and scope of their employment.
  • Negligent Entrustment: These cases often involve borrowed vehicles, like a teen borrowing a parent’s car or a roommate borrowing a roommate’s car. Owners are vicariously liable for damages in these cases if they knowingly allow incompetent drivers to operate their motor vehicles.

Commercial negligent entrustment cases come up a lot as well. Most people decline the extra U-Haul, Enterprise, or other rental vehicle insurance. So, these drivers are seriously underinsured. However, the federal Graves Amendment makes these cases complex.


If a personal injury attorney cannot locate the tortfeasor (negligent driver), UM/UIM policies usually pay compensation. These claims usually settle rather quickly. They also settle on victim-friendly terms. Basically, these claims aren’t as adversarial as other injury matters. Insurance companies want to keep their paying customers happy.

Many people think that locating a hit-and-run tortfeasor is a lost cause. After all, fewer than 10 percent of hit-and-run drivers are successfully prosecuted in criminal court. However, the civil court liability percentage is much higher, mostly because the burden of proof is much lower.

Criminal court prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Essentially, unless the driver voluntarily confesses or a very credible witness with an eagle eye got a good look at the driver, there’s probably not enough evidence. This evidence issue may explain the low resolution rate. Investigators know they have an uphill climb, to say the least, to amass enough evidence to convict the defendant. So, they usually quit.

The nature of criminal court proceedings may be a factor as well. Deep down, many police officers see most car wrecks as civil matters, even if someone was killed.

Back to the burden of proof. A Los Angeles personal injury attorney must only establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). It’s more likely than not that the owner was also the driver. That’s especially true if the owner doesn’t have an ironclad alibi.

How does an attorney find an owner? We’re glad you asked. Nearby traffic or other surveillance camera footage may be key. If a camera captures footage of a vehicle with front-end damage, it’s more likely than not that it’s the hit-and-run vehicle. Tracking down the owner is simply a matter of running the license plate number

Consult Our Experienced Motorcycle Crash Attorney Today!

Vehicle collisions usually cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced California personal injury attorney, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

Credit: Photo by Midjourney

Sharona Hakim

Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.

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