If you flee the scene of an accident, also known as hit and run, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. The following are the general steps to take, immediately after an accident:
- Stop your car: check to see if anyone was injured and if they are, take reasonable steps to help them.
- Call the police: You’ll want a record of what happened.
- Give the other driver your name and address: If requested, your driver’s license information, and registration.
- Find any witnesses to the crash.
- Call your insurance company (and the other driver’s if need be).
What if Property is Damaged?
If you hit a parked car or any other type of property when no one is around, be sure to leave a note. Include your name and contact information and what happened. While it varies from state to state, if you destroyed $1,000 or more of property then you can face more serious repercussions.
If you suspect or believe that you’ve done more than $1,000 worth of property damage then you must report the accident to your local DMV and/or insurance agent.
People also read: Property Damage Lawsuits
What Happens if a Non-Driver is Injured?
If someone is injured, and you leave the scene of the accident, you could be charged with felony hit and run. Whether it’s a passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian, you are responsible for calling 911. While giving aid is admirable, if you are not trained or experienced in giving aid then you should only make sure that the proper authorities are coming as soon as possible. You may end up injuring the person further and can open yourself to further liability.
It doesn’t matter if you didn’t hit the pedestrian/cyclist/passenger. If you were involved in the accident, then you have an obligation to stay and wait for the police to show up.
What Happens if a Pet is Injured?
Generally, states consider pets as property, so the damaged property rule stands. If a pet is injured or killed from your driving, you are required to stop, trying to notify the owner, and call the police. If you don’t do either, then you could be charged with leaving the scene of a hit and run.
Beware of the legality of taking possession of the animal. Moving it to the side of the road to lessen the danger of being hit, would not constitute possession. If you put it in your car, you are responsible for getting the animal medical treatment. Bottom line, call 911 and wait for help to arrive.
What Are the Punishments for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
Punishments for a hit and run varies from state-to-state, but they follow the same guidelines. The punishment for a hit and run depends on the severity of accident. Either the amount of damage from the accident or if person(s) are injured in the accident.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run
If the accident only involves property damage with no injuries, the charge is typically a misdemeanor, and could come with a $1000 fine and possible jail time.
Felony Hit and Run
If anyone is injured, the penalties are much more severe. Prison time is likely along with fines of up to $10,000. If someone dies from the car accident, and an individual flees, it is an automatic felony.
The kicker to both misdemeanor and felony hit and run penalties, is if you leave the scene of the accident. Staying put is the best possible option.
Exceptions to Leaving the Scene of an Accident Charges
A few exceptions to charges of leaving the scene of an accident exist:
- Hit and run laws don’t apply to anyone other than the drivers (passengers are not included).
- If a driver is incapacitated and unable to render aid or exchange information, they won’t be punished for not doing so.
- If staying at the scene poses danger to a driver, such as a possible explosion, then moving away is a valid reason to leave.
These are special circumstances, if not irregular. As explained above, it is best to stay, give information, and wait for police/medical help to arrive.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you fled the scene of an accident, it is a very good idea to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Criminal and civil charges may be brought against you. A criminal defense attorney in your area can advise you of your options and represent you in court.