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Last updated: October 17, 2023

What to Do After a Hit-and-Run in California

From 2011 to 2021, there were 3,586 fatal hit-and-runs in California, 10 percent of all fatal car crashes.

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California is known for many things: its beautiful beaches and national parks, the entertainment and tech industries, and, of course, car culture. In 2016, the last time the Federal Highway Administration released national data on annual vehicle miles traveled, the state’s 26.2 million drivers drove nearly 300 million miles, the highest amount in the U.S.

Unfortunately, with so many cars on the road, California has a large number of fatal hit-and-runs, which occur when someone hits a car and leaves the scene of an accident without exchanging information, rendering aid, or calling the police. Here’s the information you need to know about what to do after a hit-and-run, how much it affects car insurance premiums in California, and the penalties for hitting and running.

What to Do After Hit-and-Run Crashes in California

California has laws surrounding hit-and-runs. Make sure you follow them to avoid fines, imprisonment, or both.

Stop at the Scene of the Accident

Even if your accident involved property damage only, you must stop as close to the accident as possible without impeding traffic or risking your safety. Then, you must locate and notify the person in charge of the property you hit, exchanging your contact information (name and address), license number, and registration information. If you can’t locate the owner or driver, you must leave a written note in a conspicuous place, explaining what happened and including your name and address. Additionally, provide “reasonable assistance” to any injured parties.

Report the Accident

You’re required to report an accident “without unnecessary delay” that results in any of the following:

If the accident occurred in an incorporated area, contact the local police. However, if the accident occurred in unincorporated territory, contact the nearest local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.

Violating these requirements will be a misdemeanor, more serious than an infraction.

Gather Evidence

Now that you’ve fulfilled your legal responsibilities, gather as much evidence as you can for when you’re filing a claim, including the police report. If you didn’t see the license plate, speak to witnesses and get their information so they can add to your claim. Take pictures of the damages, if any, and write down the time and location of the accident, along with the weather conditions. The more information you have for your claim, the likelier compensation is.

How to Recover Damages

Did someone hit your parked car and flee the scene? Or were you in the car when the hit-and-run occurred, and you had enough time to scribble down the license plate number? Whether or not you know the identity of the person who hit your car will determine how you can recover damages.

If you know the identity of the at-fault driver, you can get compensated through their liability coverage, which is required in California (assuming they have insurance). However, if you don’t know the identity of the driver, or if they’re part of the 17 percent of people in California who drive without insurance,1 you can file a claim with your own insurance, including:

  • Uninsured motorist coverage: Property damage and bodily injuries
  • Collision coverage: Property damage only
  • Medical payments coverage: Bodily injuries only

If you’ve filed a first- or third-party claim and you still have uncompensated losses, given you know the hit-and-run driver, you can sue them, regardless of your own percentage of negligence in the hit-and-run. Because the state has pure comparative negligence laws, you’ll be able to recover money, but it’ll be reduced by your percentage of fault, like if you were parked illegally.

You can sue for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death in a civil suit for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are monetary losses, objective and verifiable, which include:

  • Burial costs
  • Costs of obtaining substitute domestic services
  • Costs of repair or replacement
  • Loss of earnings
  • Loss of employment, business, or employment opportunities
  • Loss of use of property
  • Medical expenses

Non-economic losses are subjective and non-monetary, such as:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Mental suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of society, companionship, and consortium
  • Injury to reputation
  • Humiliation


Additionally, you can use your health insurance coverage for your medical costs as well.

How a California Hit-and-Run Accident Affects Car Insurance

If you’re involved in an accident in California, you’ll need to carry an SR-22 form, which proves that you have the minimum car insurance that California requires. Having to file an SR-22 with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles makes you a high-risk driver, so expect your car insurance premium to increase by 93 percent, on average, or anywhere between 6 and 155 percent.

Average cost of car insurance in California Clean driving record SR-22 Percentage increase
AAA $455 $1,046 130%
Allstate $713 $1,676 135%
Bristol West $917 $1,019 11%
Farmers $741 $1,302 76%
GEICO $369 $931 152%
Grange Insurance Association $442 $645 46%
Infinity $612 $977 60%
Mercury $542 $905 67%
National General $687 $725 6%
State Farm $732 $1,870 155%
United Automobile Insurance Company (UAIC) $526 $1,126 114%


Having trouble finding cheap car insurance in California with an SR-22? Consider joining the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan for high-risk drivers. Apply online here:

Statistics: Hit-and-Runs in California

We analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System to see just how common hit-and-runs are in the state of California. From 2011 to 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, hit-and-runs made up 10 percent of all of the state’s fatal crashes.

Year Involved a hit and run Did not involve a hit and run Total fatal crashes in California Percentage of all fatal crashes
2011 238 2,379 2,617 9%
2012 226 2,507 2,733 8%
2013 282 2,578 2,860 10%
2014 285 2,574 2,859 10%
2015 300 2,823 3,123 10%
2016 354 3,186 3,540 10%
2017 362 3,207 3,569 10%
2018 361 3,124 3,485 10%
2019 327 3,100 3,427 10%
2020 404 3,269 3,673 11%
2021 447 3,536 3,983 11%
Total 3,586 32,283 35,869 10%
Average 326 2,935 3,261 10%

Of the fatal hit-and-runs, 41 percent involved drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, meaning they were driving under the influence, and 30 percent were speeding.

Driver involvement Number of fatal hit-and-runs in California in 2021 Percentage of total
Alcohol impairment (BAC of 0.08% or higher) 183 41%
Speeding 133 30%
Distracted driver 6 1%
Drowsy driver 0 N/A
Total 447 N/A

The plurality, or a quarter, of the drivers involved in fatal hit-and-runs were between the ages of 35 and 44.

Age group Number of drivers involved in fatal hit-and-runs in California in 2021 Percentage of total known drivers
16-20 1 <1%
21-24 38 11%
25-34 52 14%
35-44 91 25%
45-54 50 14%
55-64 50 14%
65-74 13 4%
Over 74 7 2%
Unknown 286 N/A
Total known 361 N/A

Finally, of the drivers whose sex was known, 75 percent were male. Despite this, California forbids car insurance companies to charge men more for car insurance on the basis of sex, so males and females should have similar rates.3

Sex Number of drivers involved in fatal hit-and-runs in California in 2021 Percentage of total known drivers
Male 277 75%
Female 93 25%
Reported as unknown 277 N/A
Total known 370 N/A

Penalties for Hit-and-Runs

If you hit someone’s car and do not stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible, you will face either a fine, imprisonment, or both, according to the California Vehicle Code.2

Penalty for not stopping after an accident Property damage only Injury or death Permanent, serious injury and/or death
Fine $1,000 maximum $1,000- $10,000 $1,000- $10,000
Imprisonment 6 months maximum 1-year maximum 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison, or 90 days-1 year in a county jail

5 more years in state prison if the person fled the scene of the crime


The state defines a “serious and permanent injury” as one that results in a loss or permanent impairment of the function of a bodily organ or member.

Additionally, the state will add two negligent operator points to your driving record for drivers 18 and older. The state will also require you to carry an SR-22 form, proof of minimum coverage.5 Learn more about SR-22s in California. Finally, the DMV could restrict, revoke, or suspend your driving privileges, or place them on probation pending an investigation.


You might assume that car insurance in California is expensive, given the state’s high cost of living. However, the average annual cost in 2020 was only $1,050, $3 more than the national average.6 Keep rates low by following state laws and avoiding at-fault accidents. But if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run, your rates may increase, even if you had no fault in the situation, given you had to file a first-party claim.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do police investigate hit-and-runs in California?

Yes, police investigate hit-and-runs in California. In fact, people are required to report hit-and-runs to the police if they involve property damage worth over $1,000, injury, or death.

Can you sue someone for a hit-and-run in California?

Yes. You can sue someone for a hit-and-run in California, regardless of your percentage of negligence, for both economic and non-economic damages.

What evidence is needed to convict a hit-and-run in California?

According to the DUI and criminal defense law firm Aizman Law Firm, based in Sherman Oaks, the following evidence is needed to convict a hit-and-run in California:

  • The defendant was involved in a car accident.
  • The defendant caused property damage to someone else’s property or probable property damage that the driver knew about.
  • The defendant did not perform their legally required duties after the car accident, like providing reasonable assistance, stopping, or exchanging information.

How often are hit-and-run cases solved in California?

Hit-and-run cases are solved about 8 percent of the time as of 2017, according to data from the Los Angeles Police Department. This is a decrease from 12 percent in 2016, as reported in the Los Angeles Daily News.


  1. One in Eight Drivers Uninsured. Insurance Research Council. (2021, Mar 22).

  2. California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan. AiPSA. (2023).

  3. Commissioner issues regulations prohibiting gender discrimination in automobile insurance rates. California Department of Insurance. (2019, Jan 3).

  4. VEHICLE CODE – VEH DIVISION 10. ACCIDENTS AND ACCIDENT REPORTS. California Legislative Information. (1959).

  5. INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS. California DMV. (2023).

  6. 2019/2020 Auto Insurance Database Report. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2023, Jan).