LOS ANGELES ATTORNEY JOHN NOJIMA OF LEDERER & NOJIMA COMMENTS ON HIGH NUMBER OF PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS IN LA AND RECENT COVERAGE OF THE EPIDEMIC ON ABC’S 20/20
Hit-and-run accidents in California make having Uninsured Motorist Coverage Essential.
On December 6, 2012, the LA Weekly published a report by Simone Wilson about hit-and-run accidents in Los Angeles. The article, “L.A.’s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic,” outlined the high-number of car-versus-pedestrian accidents that occur on Los Angeles streets and the high number that involve a driver who flees the scene of the accident. Personal Injury Attorney John Nojima of the Law Firm Lederer & Nojima says that “the word ‘epidemic’ seems appropriate. We deal with many hit-and-run cases that involve car accidents, motorcycle accidents and bike accidents and, perhaps the most serious, pedestrian accidents in which the driver simply leaves the scene. The high number of uninsured motorists in California may contribute to the problem, but there are other factors as well. What the LA Weekly article uncovers is a terrible truth about Los Angeles: it is a dangerous place to be a pedestrian.”
According to the LA Weekly article, there are 20, 000 hit-and-run accidents in Los Angeles every year. The national average for hit-and-run vehicle accidents is 11%. In Los Angeles, the number of car accidents that are hit-and-run incidents is 48%. Of course not all of these involve pedestrians but a significant number do and these types of accidents are nearly always serious, resulting in catastrophic injuries or death.
“This is the reason why having uninsured motorist coverage in every state is a good idea but it is not just a good idea in California; it is absolutely essential. If a driver hits you and leaves the scene, whether the liable driver had insurance or not becomes insignificant if they are never identified. Uninsured motorist coverage is provided by your own insurance company and should provide the coverage necessary. Especially in this state, you need this insurance because of our hit-and-run problem,” Nojima says.
On an episode of ABC’s news program 20/20 called “Highway Confidential” that aired on August 23, 2013, a segment was dedicated to the hit-and-run problem in Los Angeles. In addition to identifying Los Angeles as the hit-and-run capital of the nation, the segment also profiles Los Angeles Police Officer Felix Padilla. He is a detective who focuses on investigating hit-and-run accidents that involve pedestrians and bicyclists. Most of his effort is directed at solving accidents that involve fatalities. One reason that the issue is so widespread in Los Angeles, Padilla surmises, is because of the high number of undocumented immigrants in Southern California and their fear of reprisal if they are investigated for involvement in a car accident.
In response to that logic, Nojima agrees, to an extent. “That certainly might play a part but there are many other factors as well. The weather in Los Angeles allows a high number of pedestrians to be outside year round and there is also no doubt that LA is the center of ‘car culture.’ There are just millions and millions of cars on the road so the opportunities for accidents are very high. Also, if the LA Weekly report is correct, there are just not enough Detective Padillas working to keep the streets safe,” he says. “That story, I think, was a real eye-opener for many people who didn’t know the problem was so bad or that the city was not allocating necessary resources.”
In the Weekly story, the writer includes this detail: “each of L.A.’s four huge traffic divisions is assigned approximately 12 traffic investigators. That means that each of 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.” Nojima says that it is no wonder, as is reported in the 20/20 segment, that approximately 50% of Detective Padilla’s hit-and-run cases are never solved. This is reflective of the number of unsolved hit-and-run cases throughout the city.
“This detective and the entire LAPD are doing a fantastic job with limited resources. But, when there are tens of thousands of these kinds of accidents each year, vast resources for investigating, prosecuting and preventing them are necessary. These types of resources must be allocated by the political leadership at the very top,” Nojima says. “If a victim of a pedestrian accident calls us after they have been struck by a car, our attorneys and independent investigators will fight relentlessly for the justice and compensation the victim needs. But we would much rather see these types accidents reduced and even eliminated.” To significantly reduce these types of crashes will involve substantial effort from multiple segments of society.
“Educating the public is vital with programs like 20/20 and the LA Weekly article,” Nojima asserts, “and the city’s leadership has taken some steps to improve the safety of crosswalks in recent years, but solving this problem is going to take concentrated effort and sustained attention. It won’t be solved any time soon, unfortunately. Until it is, Lederer & Nojima will be on the side of victims to make sure insurance companies provide what is fair.”