Hit and run accidents occur where one driver strikes another car, pedestrian, or bicyclist, then leaves the scene of the accident in order to avoid liability. In many cases, a driver may choose to flee the scene because they don’t have valid insurance, because they are driving illegally, or because they were drunk driving. Hit and run accidents are common in areas with many intersections, crosswalks, and parking lots, though they can also occur on major highways.
State law requires that a driver who has collided with another vehicle to top and make a reasonable effort to exchange identification and insurance information. If a driver collides with a parked car, the driver must:
- Stop their vehicle and make a reasonable effort to identify the owner of the vehicle or property.
- Take down the parked vehicle’s license plate number to try and identify the owner.
- Leave a written notice on the parked car notifying the driver of the situation and leave proper identification so the incident at a later time.
If the driver of a vehicle does not stop after colliding with another vehicle, the driver of the vehicle would be liable to penalties and serious criminal charges such as felony hit and run.
Are Hit and Run Incidents Illegal?
Leaving the scene of an accident without leaving your contact information with the affected party is generally illegal according to state laws. While it is not always necessary to call the police or file a report, the driver(s) are required to exchange information with one another so that they can work out damages and injury payments with one another. It is a good idea to file a police report however so that there is a record of the incident. If the accident involved an unattended vehicle, the driver should leave a note on the other car with their information.
What Are the Consequence for Hit and Run Accidents?
The consequences for a hit and run include serious criminal penalties. The exact penalties vary from state to state. In many states, if a driver leaves the scene of an accident where there has been a type of injury to a pedestrian or another driver or occupant, the driver could be liable for a felony hit and run. Penalties for felony hit and run have fines between $5,000 and $20,000 and the driver could face potential imprisonment.
If the hit and run did not involve any type of injury and is classified as a misdemeanor hit and run, the driver would be punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and also could face up to one year in county jail.
Are There Any Defenses for Hit and Run Cases?
There may be some hit and run defenses available, though they can sometimes be difficult to prove. A commonly raised defense is where the party responsible for the incident did not have actual knowledge of the accident and were involved in some sort of emergency situation. Intoxication is generally not an acceptable defense, since drunk driving is prohibited by law. Coercion is another defense (i.e., the person was forced to drive the car under threat of harm).
Some jurisdictions may prevent a party from recovering damages if they also fled the scene of the accident at the time it occurred.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Hit and Run Incidents?
To defend yourself as the driver in a hit and run case, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Filing damages for hit and run claims generally requires the expertise of a personal injury lawyer.