Civil & Criminal Consequences of a Hit & Run Accident Resulting in a Wrongful Death

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According to CBS Los Angeles, there were approximately 21,000 hit and run accidents in Los Angeles in 2010. This figure was four times higher than the national average for hit and run accidents. In fact, nearly 50% of all traffic “accidents” in Los Angeles were classified as hit and runs in 2010.

If you are convicted of a hit and run causing death under VC 20001, what criminal and civil consequences can you expect to face?

Criminal punishment for a hit and run causing death (VC 20001)

The punishment for a hit and run conviction under VC 20001 will be severe. California Vehicle Code section 20001(b)(2) states the following:


“If the accident described in subdivision (a) results in death or permanent, serious injury, a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than 90 days nor more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. However, the court, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment required by this paragraph.”


You may also be prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter under California Penal Code section 192.

In order to convict you of a hit and run causing death, the prosecutor will need to demonstrate the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:


  • You were involved in a vehicular accident while driving;
  • The accident resulted in the death of another person; AND
  • You knew or had reason to know that you were involved in an accident that likely injured another person.

In addition to these three elements, the prosecutor has the burden of proving that you failed to perform one of the following acts:


  • Stop immediately at the scene of the accident;
  • Provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident; OR
  • Provide the person struck, other driver, or occupants of the vehicle with the following information at the scene of the accident:


    • Your name;
    • Your current residential address; AND
    • The registration number of the vehicle that you were driving.


Civil liabilities of a hit and run causing death

If you are convicted of a hit and run causing death, you may be subject to a civil lawsuit for damages caused to the deceased party.

Family members of the deceased party may be able obtain compensation in the following areas:


  • The costs of any medical treatment;
  • Future lost earnings
  • Pain and suffering;
  • The loss of consortium;
  • The loss of companionship; AND/OR
  • Funeral and burial costs.

If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the hit and run causing death, you may be subject to punitive damages. In Taylor v. Superior Court, (1979) 24 Cal. 3d 890, the California Supreme Court ruled that punitive damages are recoverable from an intoxicated driver who injures or kills another driver and/or passenger. Punitive damages are meant to punish the intoxicated driver’s reckless disregard for the safety of other drivers.

For more information regarding the civil liabilities of a hit and run causing death, contact experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney Bradley Kramer today.

Written by Paul J. Wallin of Wallin & Klarich, A Law Corporation

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