Determining Liability in a Hit and Run Motorcycle Accident

In the bustling streets and highways of California, motorcycle enthusiasts navigate their way through traffic with freedom. However, this exhilarating experience can turn into a nightmare when involved in an accident. A hit and run motorcycle accident not only poses immediate risks to the rider but also raises complex legal challenges when it comes to determining liability and compensation.

According to recent statistics, California has witnessed a concerning rise in hit and run accidents, with motorcycles being particularly vulnerable to such incidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that between 2012 and 2022, our state had the highest percentage of hit and run fatalities, with 3,348, or 10% of the accidents. These incidents not only leave a trail of devastation for its victims and families, but also introduces a maze of legal complexities when it comes to identifying the responsible party.

In today’s blog, we will delve into the intricate process of determining liability in hit and run motorcycle accidents, exploring the legal options available to victims. Understanding the specific challenges posed by such incidents is crucial for riders navigating the aftermath of these unfortunate events. In particular, we will explore:

  • The legal aspects of a hit and run driver accident
  • Common causes of California hit & run accidents
  • What to do after a hit & run accident in California

The Legal Aspects of a Hit and Run Accident

A hit and run offense occurs when a driver involved in a traffic accident leaves the crash scene without stopping to identify themselves, provide contact information, or assist the injured parties if necessary. It can involve pedestrians, other vehicles like motorcycles, or property. Fleeing the scene of an accident is considered a serious offense because it undermines the legal and ethical responsibilities that drivers have after a collision or fatal crashes.

In our state, the laws regarding hit and run offenses are outlined in the California Vehicle Code. The severity of the offense depends on various factors, such as the extent of property damage, whether there are injuries, and whether the accident involves an occupied vehicle or unattended property. 

Here are the key aspects of hit and run offenses in California:

Misdemeanor Hit and Run (CVC 20002)

  • In cases where only property damage is involved, a hit and run is generally considered a misdemeanor.
  • This law requires drivers to stop immediately at the scene, locate the owner of the damaged property, and provide contact information.

Felony Hit and Run (CVC 20001)

  • If the accident involves injury or death to another person, it is considered a felony.
  • In this law, drivers are required to stop, identify themselves, and render aid to the injured parties. Failure to do so can result in more severe penalties.


  • Misdemeanor hit and run convictions can result in fines, probation, and potential jail time.
  • Felony hit and run convictions carry more severe consequences, including significant fines and potential imprisonment, especially if there are injuries or fatalities.

Aggravating Factors

  • Certain circumstances can elevate the severity of a hit and run offense, such as driving under the influence (DUI) at the time of the incident.
  • Repeat offenses or a history of traffic violations can also lead to enhanced penalties.

What makes a hit and run incident more severe than other vehicular accidents is the deliberate act of leaving the crash scene, which shows a disregard for the safety and well-being of others. The law emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions in the aftermath of a collision, particularly when injuries are involved.

The act of fleeing compounds the consequences, as it not only violates traffic laws but also hinders the timely provision of assistance and information to crash victims affected by the accident.

hit and run motorcycle

Common Causes of California Hit & Run Accidents

Motorcycle hit and run crashes can occur for various reasons, similar to hit and run incidents involving other vehicles. Some common causes include:

  • Lack of Visibility: Motorcycle riders are smaller and less visible than cars, making them more prone to being overlooked by other drivers. In some cases, a hit and run might occur because the other party was not aware of the collision.
  • Reckless Driving: Speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, and other forms of reckless driving increase the risk of accidents. A hit and run may happen if a negligent driver is involved in such behavior and is not concerned about the consequences.
  • Intoxication: Like any other drivers, motorcyclists may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Fear of legal consequences might lead an intoxicated rider to flee the scene, especially if they caused bodily injury to another person.
  • Lack of Insurance: Some individuals may not have insurance or proper documentation for their motorcycles. Fleeing the scene may be an attempt to avoid legal repercussions related to lack of insurance.

Determining liability in a hit and run motorcycle accident can be challenging, especially if the fleeing party is not identified at the scene. However, there are steps taken to establish liability and protect your legal rights:

  • Investigation by Law Enforcement: The police will investigate to gather evidence from the scene, including witness statements, surveillance footage, and physical evidence.
  • Eyewitness Testimonies: If there are witnesses to the accident, their testimonies can be crucial in identifying the fleeing party and establishing fault.
  • Forensic Evidence: Physical evidence such as paint transfers, vehicle parts, or debris left at the scene can be analyzed to determine the type of vehicle involved.

Penalties for hit and run motorcycle accidents in the United States, including California, are generally severe and may include:

Criminal Penalties

Hit and run offenses are criminal offenses that can lead to fines, probation, and imprisonment, especially if injuries or fatalities are involved.

Civil Liability

In addition to criminal penalties, the fleeing party may be held liable for damages caused by the accident. This could involve compensation for medical expenses, property damage, and other losses suffered by the injured party.

License Consequences

Hit and run convictions can result in the suspension or revocation of the offender’s driver’s license.

Insurance Consequences

Insurance companies may increase your rates, and obtaining coverage may become more challenging for individuals with hit and run convictions.

Penalties can vary based on the specific circumstances of the accident, like the presence of uninsured motorist coverage, and the laws of the jurisdiction involved. In any case, hit and run incidents are treated seriously due to the potential for harm and the violation of legal and ethical responsibilities on the road.

What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident in California

Experiencing a hit and run accident can be a distressing and confusing situation. If you are a victim of a hit and run, here are steps you should take immediately following the incident:

  • Stay Calm: Try to remain as calm as possible. Take a few deep breaths to collect yourself and focus on the next steps.
  • Ensure Safety: Check yourself and any passengers for injuries after an accident. If you or anyone else is injured, seek medical attention immediately by calling for an ambulance.
  • Note Details: Write down as many details as possible for the accident report about the fleeing vehicle, including the make, model, color, license plate number (even a partial one), and any unique features.
  • Document the Scene: Take pictures of the accident scene, your vehicle, and any damage. Capture the surrounding area and any potential witnesses.
  • Look for Crash Witnesses: Check if there are any witnesses to the accident. Obtain their contact information and ask if they are willing to provide statements to law enforcement. Any surveillance video you find will be helpful too.
  • Contact the Police: Report the hit and run motorcycle collision to the police as soon as possible. Provide them with the details you have gathered, and be prepared to state the resulting police report.
  • Seek Medical Attention: Even if you initially feel fine, it’s advisable to seek medical attention. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, and a medical examination can help document any injuries related to the accident.
  • Consult with an Attorney: If you’re facing challenges with insurance claims or legal matters related to the hit and run, consider consulting with an attorney experienced in personal injury law. Having legal representation will ensure you get full compensation for your accident claims, medical bills and other damages.
  • Cooperate with Law Enforcement: Work closely with the police during their investigation. Provide any additional information they may need and follow up on the progress of their efforts to locate the responsible party.

Remember that the steps you take immediately following a hit and run motorcycle crash can significantly impact the outcome of the investigation, your insurance coverage, and your ability to seek compensation for damages. It’s crucial to act quickly, stay organized, and cooperate with law enforcement and insurance providers throughout the process.

Don’t Let This Be The End of the World

The legal aspects surrounding hit and run accidents, particularly in California, underscore the gravity of such events. Departing the scene of a collision without fulfilling legal obligations always reflects a serious breach of responsibility, both ethically and legally. 

Furthermore, the potential impact on victims, including medical expenses and property damage, reinforces the seriousness with which these incidents should be treated. Immediate actions taken by a victim after a hit and run are crucial, acting swiftly and methodically to ensure their well-being. And consulting with an experienced attorney is the most critical part, letting victims enhance their chances of obtaining full compensation for their damages and suffering. 

Ultimately, the legal framework surrounding hit and run accidents in California aims to promote accountability, uphold ethical standards, and ensure justice for those affected by these reckless acts on the road.


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