Skip to Main Content

What to do after a hit and run in California

A woman pushing a shopping car inspects a scrape on the back of her car from a hit and run.
Guido Mieth/Getty Images
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . This content is powered by HomeInsurance.com (NPN: 8781838). For more information, please see our

A car accident is never ideal, but the situation becomes much more complex — and potentially expensive — when the other driver or drivers involved leave the scene before exchanging information. If you get involved in a hit-and-run in California, you should contact the police right away, then file a claim with your insurance carrier. If you have full coverage car insurance, your policy should cover most of your losses, like vehicle damages and medical bills.

Hit-and-runs in California

Hit-and-run accidents in California do happen, but not as often as standard accidents. The most recent California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) annual report indicated that there were nearly 14,000 injury hit-and-run crashes in 2020, down 4.7% from the year prior.

So, how is a hit-and-run defined? A hit-and-run isn’t just a breach of the social contract. California Traffic Code specifically dictates that after an accident, all drivers need to stop their vehicles (after moving them out of the traffic flow), then offer “reasonable assistance” to any injured person and exchange information. Specifically, drivers involved in an accident in California need to provide:

  • Their name
  • Their current address
  • Their vehicle registration number
  • The name and address of anyone in their vehicle who was injured in the accident

Ultimately, it’s a good idea for anyone who gets in an accident in California to stay at the accident scene and exchange information or risk being charged with a hit-and-run.

California hit-and-run laws

When it comes to insurance, California hit-and-run laws differ from other states. Specifically, drivers can’t use uninsured motorist insurance to pay for damage to their vehicle if they can’t identify the other driver. There are, however, stiff legal penalties for the other driver if they are found. Those penalties depend on the amount of damage they caused. Here’s a quick overview of California hit-and-run laws:

  • Property damage after a hit-and-run: If the driver who left the scene damaged property but no one sustained injuries, they face up to six months of imprisonment in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Injuries after a hit-and-run: In this case, if caught, the driver who left the scene faces up to one year in a state prison or a county jail and/or a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000.
  • Deaths or permanent injuries after a hit-and-run: According to California hit-and-run statute, the hit-and-run driver who gets caught faces two to four years in a state prison or a fine of up to $10,000.

California hit-and-run law states that this offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Generally, property damage results in a misdemeanor and fatalities almost always result in a felony charge.

How hit-and-runs impact car insurance rates in California

Causing a hit-and-run accident in California will have a significant impact on a car insurance premium. In fact, a hit-and-run will likely have a much larger impact on a driver’s insurance rate than a standard accident.

If a driver causes an accident and flees the scene, they may be required to file an SR-22 form, a document that is often held by high-risk drivers. They might also face a rate increase if the driver they hit files an insurance claim.

In California, the average annual rate increase after a hit-and-run is much higher than the national average. In the table below, you can see the average annual full coverage premiums before and after an at-fault hit-and-run and accident.

Average annual full coverage premiums:

Before a hit-and-run After a hit-and-run After a standard at-fault accident
California average $2,065 $5,207 $3,412
National average $1,674 $3,367 $2,405

Four things to do after a hit-and-run in California

Drivers who are victims of a hit-and-run can take certain steps to protect themselves after the accident, including:

  • Make sure everyone is safe. After a hit-and-run in California, move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic and check on yourself and any passengers. Your priority should be to call for medical attention if anyone needs it.
  • Call the police and have them come to the scene to file a report. In a hit-and-run, involving law enforcement provides the best chance to find the other driver and evidence of what happened. If the driver who left the scene is found, they’ll need to pay for the damages to your car and any medical bills. You may also need a police report in order to file an insurance claim.
  • Gather evidence. While everything’s fresh, take notes on everything you can remember about the other driver and vehicle. See if any eyewitnesses can contribute and ask them to stay and talk to the police. If they can’t or won’t stay at the scene, get their contact information. Take pictures of any damage and look around for any pieces of the other driver’s car that may help identify them. It’s best not to touch anything and let the police collect any evidence at the scene.
  • Contact your auto insurer. They will let you know what information is needed to file a claim.

Will insurance cover a hit-and-run?

There is no such thing as California hit-and-run insurance. However, there are certain types of coverage that will compensate you in the event of a hit-and-run.

There is good news and bad news regarding insurance and hit-and-run auto accidents in California. The good news is that collision coverage can pay to repair your vehicle. The bad news is that, without the other driver, it will be your responsibility to pay the deductible. Uninsured motorist coverage can help with medical bills, but in California, it won’t pay for vehicle repairs unless the driver who left the scene can be identified.

It’s also important to note that both of these coverage types are optional and are not likely to be included in a standard auto insurance policy. It can be tempting to skimp on coverage since auto insurance in California is already more expensive than in many other states. Still, the minimum level of state-required liability insurance is unlikely to cover all the costs associated with an accident. When shopping for an auto policy, it’s a good idea to research the cheapest and best car insurance companies, then speak with a licensed insurance professional before purchasing to ensure you have adequate coverage.

Frequently asked questions

How common is a hit-and-run in California?

According to the California Annual Report of 2020, California hit-and-runs decreased 4.7% from the previous year, but they still happen. It’s a good idea to be prepared and have a plan if you are involved in an accident, and the other driver flees the scene.

What is the best car insurance company?

There is no one best auto insurance company for everyone. It’s a good idea to shop around and compare rates from car insurance companies available in your area before purchasing a policy.

Will my insurance cover a hit-and-run in California?

If you can’t track down the other driver, you will need to use optional collision coverage and pay your hit-and-run deductible to repair your vehicle. In California, uninsured motorist coverage can only be used for medical bills.

How long does a hit-and-run stay on your record in California?

In California, a hit-and-run usually remains on your driving record for three to five years. During this time, you will likely pay higher car insurance premiums and you may be required to file an SR-22. Once the violation is removed, your car insurance rate should return to its normal amount, barring any other changes to driving record or claim history.

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverage that meets each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.

Incident: Rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base), at-fault accident and a hit-and-run.

Written by
Kacie Goff
Personal Finance Contributor
Kacie Goff is a personal finance and insurance writer with over seven years of experience covering personal and commercial coverage options. She writes for Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, NextAdvisor, Varo Money, Coverage, Best Credit Cards and more. She's covered a broad range of policy types — including less-talked-about coverages like wrap insurance and E&O — and she specializes in auto, homeowners and life insurance.
Edited by
Insurance Editor
Reviewed by
Director of corporate communications, Insurance Information Institute