hit and run accident occurs when the driver of a vehicle hits another vehicle or a pedestrian, bicyclist or even non-moveable property, then leaves the scene where the accident occurred without checking on anyone or leaving any identifying information. A party to a vehicular accident is legally required to stay on the scene and exchange contact and insurance information with any other parties to the accident.

This way, when fault is established, parties may obtain monetary damages from each other/each other’s insurance companies. Typically, parties should also remain on the scene to give statements to a police officer, which will help determine who was at fault in the accident.

It is very serious to be charged with a hit and run offense. Depending on the resulting damage and injury, or even loss of life, the driver at fault may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. A situation where the victim of the accident sustained serious injury or death is much more likely to be charged as a felony, which would involve jail time for the offender.

What are You Required to Do at the Scene of a Hit and Run?

States each have their own laws, so the exact wording of what constitutes a hit and run, and the penalties for one, may vary a little according to the state in which it occurs. Essentially, though, most of the laws are quite similar. You can be charged with a hit and run offense even if you were not at fault, or if the other driver was at fault, or if you didn’t even hit another vehicle.

There are still duties that must be met. Parties involved in an accident are required to:

  • Remain on the scene (and, usually, wait for police officers);
  • See if anyone is injured/needs help and call for medical help, if needed; and
  • Provide identifying information so fault can be determined and money paid for any injury or damage caused.

Not providing your identifying information can, it itself, lead to criminal charges. Certain types of information must be provided in order to resolve the matter.

Each party to the accident should provide:

  • Driver’s license number (not a photo of your ID-protect your information);
  • Insurance information;
  • Name and contact information; and
  • License plate number.

In terms of gathering evidence to determine who was fault, it is always smart to take your own pictures of the accident scene. Also, in addition to getting the contact information from other parties to the accident, you should also get contact information from any witnesses available. They may be able to establish that you were not at fault, or that other parties to the accident were at fault.

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Are There Any Legal Defenses for a Hit and Run?

If you have been charged with a hit and run offense, there are some possible defenses that an attorney can raise on your behalf:

  • Involuntary Intoxication: Although this defense may not be very likely to be used successfully, it has been used before. The defense of involuntary intoxication can be attempted if you believe you were drugged, as a result became involuntarily intoxicated and then involved in an accident.
  • Response to an Emergency: It is possible to raise this defense if you became involved in an accident while you were driving to the hospital or elsewhere because of an emergency, particularly a medical emergency (for example, driving a woman in labor to the hospital).
  • Unaware of an Injury: Knowledge is an important component of establishing someone’s fault in a hit and run. Of course, it is difficult to establish that you were totally unaware that you caused injury to someone else, or damage, with your vehicle.

Any evidence you have been able to gather on your own behalf, including photos or videos of the scene, witness reports and police reports will be utilized in your case, should you be charged with a hit and run. These types of charges are difficult to defend against, but not impossible. If you are at fault, you may be able to mitigate (lessen) the consequences, depending on the circumstances.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Hit and Run Defenses?

This is an extremely serious offense with serious consequences, including jail or prison time. You should consult with attorneys rights away if you have been charged with a hit and run offense, and choose the one you think is best able to represent you.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will know the applicable law, and be familiar with your type of case. They will offer you your best chance of reducing the possible charges and penalties.