Los Angeles is suffering from many epidemics. Among the worst of them: Hit-and-run car crashes.

This is the claim in Simone Wilson’s recent piece in the LA Weekly. The writer claims that this problem is an under-reported “epidemic that has a terrible grip on Los Angeles.” Even a critic who claims that the word “epidemic” is an instance of exaggeration could not refute that a significant problem does exist. Wilson paints a troubling picture of a car-obsessed city in which safety only seems to be of passing concern.

In Los Angeles, the number of car accidents that are hit-and-runs is 48% and have been in this range for over a decade. The national number is 11% for this type of incident. Wilson has found that nearly 20,000 such crashes are reported in LA each year. Some of them are vehicle-to-vehicle crashes but many involve pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. In most cases, little if any evidence is left behind and the guilty drivers are left to get away without taking any responsibility for their actions including the catastrophic injuries and deaths that they cause.

What can be done? Wilson implies throughout her piece that the police department and city officials are not responding to the problem sufficiently. In describing the resources allotted to these types of accidents, Wilson writes that there are officers strictly dedicated to traffic-related crimes but “the 50 or so police officers working citywide must take on perhaps 400 hit-and-run investigations per year, from serious felonies to minor misdemeanors, in addition to other traffic crimes, including DUIs and crashes involving negligence.” There is no task force that exclusively focuses on this devastating crime. And if there is a city more in need of a dedicated task force for this problem, it is hard to identify.

A task force that exclusively investigates these types of accidents seems like a worthy use of public resources but some people have blamed the high numbers on the illegal immigration problem in Southern California. Since undocumented immigrants do not have drivers licenses and may fear deportation if they are questioned about an auto collision, they may flee the scene.

Still other arguments involve the drunk-driving problem that plagues the city. Despite laws, checkpoints and ubiquitous public service information, alcohol and drug-related car accidents still occur with troubling frequency. Drivers who are inebriated may fear a DUI arrest if they are apprehended at the scene of an accident.

Solutions to the drunk-driving problem are still being devised and implemented with varying degrees of success. A solution to the illegal immigrant issue is not forthcoming in the near future. A police task force is, perhaps, a more realistic solution but even that may take years to have any effect. While we await action at the legislative or law enforcement level, we must use the resources that we have available to us now. Having uninsured motorist coverage will not prevent hit-and-run crashes but it will make their aftermath less difficult if you do suffer this fate. And in LA, the possibilities that you will are extremely high.

If you carry uninsured motorist coverage and you are involved in an accident that involves a hit-and-run driver, your own insurance will cover your expenses as if the other driver did admit fault and their insurance company did compensate you. And for this insurance to apply, you do not need to be in a car. The coverage extends to you if you are on a motorcycle or you are a pedestrian. The coverage is included with all policies and can be declined if you want to reduce your monthly premium. However, the cost is extremely low especially when compared to the cost of being involved in a hit-and-run and finding your minimal coverage far from adequate for your injuries.

Perhaps the city will soon gain control of this terrible epidemic but, until then, uninsured motorist coverage is absolutely essential.


David Lederer and John Nojima used to defend the insurance companies. Now they are on your side..

At Lederer & Nojima LLP, in Los Angeles, California, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with the highest quality legal services and advice. We recognize that our success is based upon our client’s success — so we are absolutely committed to obtaining the results our clients want and need.