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Hit and Run Motorcycle Accidents: What to Know

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Posted on December 22, 2022

San Diego’s mild climate and scenic roadways make it one of the best places to motorcycle in the country. Highway 94’s desert vistas, and fields of wild poppies, together with exciting casinos and museums to visit along the way make this stretch a motorcycle destination. At the same time, the Sunrise Scenic Byway winds through a shady national forest and the Laguna mountains. Unfortunately, where there are many motorcyclists out enjoying the scenic routes around San Diego and the shops and attractions in the urban areas, there are also many accidents, including hit-and-run motorcycle accidents. In 2021, San Diego saw 631 motorcycle accidents. While the majority of people stay at the scene, call for help, and offer reasonable aid and comfort to the victim while awaiting emergency services and police, a significant portion of hit-and-run drivers flee the scene.

Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in San Diego and all other states.

Understanding Motorcycle Accidents in California

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes motorcycle accidents as particularly violent events with over 80% of motorcycle crashes ending in death for the rider. The open design of a motorcycle results in the forceful ejection of the driver and any passenger they have with them from the seat to collide not only with the road or ground but also with any other obstacles in their path. Motorcycles not only lack the surrounding metal structure, roof, and seatbelts of a car, but a car’s 4-wheel base provides far greater stability than a two-wheeled motorcycle.

Drivers on the roadways owe a duty of care to others who share the road, including motorcycle riders who are particularly vulnerable to injury and death in an accident. The NHTSA also points out that the most important safety measure a motorcycle rider can take for protection is to wear a helmet. Helmets are designed so the outer shell distributes the impact that would otherwise be forced on the skull itself and the crushable inner cushioning absorbs some of the energy force that would shake the brain itself without the cushioning layer in place.

Sadly, the particularly violent results when a car or truck hits a motorcycle lead to some at-fault drivers leaving the scene without calling 911 for fear of consequences such as liability or criminal charges.

Top Reasons Some Drivers Flee the Scene After a Hit and Run

California’s comparative fault system means it matters who causes an accident or an injury. Some drivers who hit a motorcycle may flee the scene because the comparative fault rule often leaves them liable in motorcycle accidents, meaning their insurance must pay out on the claim, and they could be held personally liable in an accident claim or a wrongful death claim, especially if they’ve failed to secure the necessary insurance to protect themselves. They may also attempt to leave the scene because they’ve consumed alcohol and may be over the limit and fearing fines and/or jail time depending on the severity of the injury they caused.

Many hit-and-run drivers fail to call 911 to report the accident, and instead, they either flee the scene or phone in the accident but supply incorrect information. Worse, hit-and-run accident victims may suffer the following:

  • More severe after-effects from the accident due to delayed medical treatment
  • Problems with insurance claims as the victim’s own insurance carriers may deny a claim payout because someone else was at-fault in the accident.
  • Medical expenses and property damage costs

Fleeing from the scene of an accident is a crime, but all too often at-fault individuals fear the repercussions of remaining until first responders arrive. What they may not consider during the tumultuous moments immediately after this type of accident are the far greater legal and moral ramifications of leaving the scene.

Legal Repercussions of Hit and Run Motorcycle Accidents

Besides the moral implications of leaving the scene of a motorcycle accident with an injured victim, hit-and-run drivers face criminal charges if/when they’re identified. Hit-and-run drivers can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction typically results in fines of up to $10,000 and up to a year in county jail. A felony hit-and-run conviction results in fines of up to $10,000 and up to 3 years in state prison or 2-4 years in prison for fleeing an accident that results in death or serious injury to the motorcyclist.

Besides the criminal charges associated with hit-and-run motorcycle accidents, injured victims or their loved ones can pursue civil claims for accident or wrongful death compensation against the at-fault driver.