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What Happens if I Get in a Phantom Driver Accident in California?

Car trapped under fallen tree after wind storm.

You are cruising down the freeway and suddenly a child runs out in front of you, causing you to swerve. Or a tree breaks and falls into the road, or another driver pulls out in front of you without signaling. You swerve to avoid the hazard and end up crashing into a tree or a pole on the side of the road. Insurance companies call these “non-contact, single car accidents,” or “phantom driver accidents.” Who is at fault? Will your insurance cover the crash? What are your rights and your options? Read on to learn about phantom driver accidents in California, and reach out to a savvy Pasadena car crash lawyer for help after a traffic accident in southern California.

If There’s no Contact, Is There Fault?

To quickly dispel any misconceptions: Just because another driver didn’t physically crash into you does not mean that they are not at fault for causing an accident. If another driver runs a stop sign, changes lanes or turns without signaling, or otherwise performs a reckless or illegal driving maneuver, the fact that you successfully swerved without hitting them (or getting hit by them) does not absolve them of responsibility. It was still their negligent actions that caused you to crash, and they are still just as liable as if their car physically crashed into yours. Likewise, if a pedestrian, a child, or a pet caused you to crash, then you may be able to impose liability on the person, the child’s parents, or the pet’s owner.

If no negligent person caused the accident and it was caused by other external forces (for example, a lightning strike knocked down a tree), then you would report the accident to your insurance provider as a normal single-car crash. You would emphasize that the accident occurred through no fault of yours–it should be treated the same as if your car was crushed by a tree branch while parked.

What to Do After a Phantom Car Crash

If you have been in a phantom car accident in California, you should treat it like any other accident. Stay at the accident scene, call the police, and report the accident. If the phantom driver sticks around, collect their information just as you would with any other crash. If they leave the scene, gather as much information as you can:

  • If you can, take a photo or write down their license plate number and/or the make, model, and color of their car
  • If there are any witnesses around who might have seen the other car or witnessed the accident, get their contact information
  • Make sure the police talk to any witnesses
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you are injured

If you cannot identify the other driver, you will need to convince your insurance company to treat the crash as a hit-and-run accident. Doing so can be difficult and requires the expertise of a seasoned California car accident attorney.

Get Help After a Pasadena Car Accident

If a negligent driver in southern California has hurt you or someone you care about, speak with an attorney who understands your concerns and can protect your interests with zeal and compassion. Call Pasadena car accident lawyer Andrew Ritholz for a free case evaluation at 626-844-7102.

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