Hitting Back After a Hit-and-Run
Many people count on law enforcement officers to protect them. Unfortunately, hit-and-run victims usually need to look elsewhere. In most jurisdictions, law enforcement investigators only solve about 8 percent of hit-and-run crashes.
Staffing issues have much to do with this low percentage. The police officer turnover rate is very high. Sometimes, the baton transfer from a departing investigator to an incoming investigator isn’t very clean. When investigators leave, for whatever reason, hit-and-run investigations often fall through the cracks. Even more commonly, there’s no one to pass the baton to. The investigator’s position remains open, which means whatever cases s/he was working on usually go cold.
Above all, law enforcement officers simply don’t care too much about victims. They assume an insurance company handles such matters. In contrast, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers only care about victims. So, if a police department drops the hit-and-run baton, we pick it up and finish the race.
Burden of Proof
The finish line is a lot further away in criminal court than civil court. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. A Los Angeles personal injury lawyer must only establish liability, or civil responsibility for damages, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.
Many Los Angelinos clearly remember the 1990s O.J. Simpson double murder saga. After a dramatic criminal trial which seemingly lasted forever, jurors concluded that Simpson was not guilty of the double murders. Remember, if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit. However, not long thereafter, a civil jury heard basically the same facts and reached the opposite conclusion.
Quite simply, Simpson wasn’t guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. There simply wasn’t enough credible evidence against him. But it was more likely than not that he, as opposed to someone else, did it. That’s the burden of proof in civil court.
So, a little evidence goes a long way, in wrongful death cases as well as hit-and-run cases. In fact, in a hit-and-run, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney doesn’t need to “prove” the defendant was the driver, or even identify the driver in court.
Assume a hit-and-run witness gets a very brief look at a hit-and-run vehicle, enough to provide a vague description (blue sedan). A few minutes later, and a few blocks away, a traffic camera captures an image of a blue sedan, and its license plate. It’s more likely than not that the hit-and-run vehicle and the camera vehicle were the same car.
That’s the straightforward part. Now, things get complex, mostly because of an obscure provision in the California Vehicle Code. So, strap yourselves in.
If owners allow anyone to use their vehicles, they’re legally responsible for negligently-inflicted damages, if the driver had “express or implied” permission to use the car. The law on this point is quite intricate, mostly because different court cases have interpreted VC 17150 in different ways.
At any rate, most insurance company lawyers strongly contest these claims at every level. For example, a lawyer might argue that the eyewitness had a poor viewing angle, and the camera hadn’t been serviced in forever, and was therefore busted.
Any lack of credibility in criminal court is usually devastating. Just ask the O.J. Simpson prosecutors who put Mark Furman on the stand. However, because of the lower burden of proof in civil court, issues like a bad seat or a checkered service record don’t wreck witness testimony.
Insurance companies fight hit-and-run cases because they know how much is at stake. Most jurors hate most hit-and-run drivers more than almost anyone else. So, they’re usually eager to award maximum compensation in these cases.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Vehicle collisions usually cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.
Credit: Photo on freepik
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.