The Legal Implications Of Hit And Run Accidents

hit and run

They’re called “accidents” for a reason – there’s usually no malicious intent involved when an incident occurs on the road. However, when one or more parties in an accident leave the scene without meeting with the authorities or reporting the accident, there’s a big problem. Hit and run accidents may have occurred without malice, but leaving the scene will bring serious legal implications.

What Defines a Hit and Run Accident?

hit and run accident is generally any car accident that occurs whereby involved participants leave the scene without identifying themselves to other parties or officials or rendering aid to anyone needing assistance. These car accidents can involve a vehicle incident with fixed objects or property or other vehicles and motorists.

What About Hitting Animals?

Some states also include accidents involving collisions with animals as hit and runs. However, whether you caused the accident or not, leaving the scene prematurely is considered a hit and run.

What About Parking Lot Accidents?

Many states extend hit and run laws to minor fender-benders in parking lots. For example, if you back into another unoccupied vehicle and leave without putting a note on the windshield, it’s considered a hit and run. This is especially important to understand, considering most modern parking lots and retail areas have camera surveillance.

What If You Leave To Seek Medical Attention?

Most states won’t charge hit and run for incidents in which participants leave to seek medical attention. Also, if your accident occurs in a remote location with poor cell service, and you leave to acquire reception to report the accident, it’s not a hit and run. In either scenario, officials expect participants to return to the scene if possible and/or follow up with authorities immediately.

How Your State Establishes Rules for Stopping After an Accident

Each state follows rules for classifying and charging for hit and run accidents, as Forbes describes. While the details might vary by jurisdiction, the primary consensus for all requires motorists to stop at a crash scene when:

  • You were directly or indirectly involved in the accident.
  • You or someone else is hurt in the incident.
  • Someone becomes fatally injured as a result of the crash.

Even if your vehicle isn’t damaged in an accident that occurs as a result of your driving, you’re expected to stop and wait for authorities to arrive. For example, if you cross the line into the wrong lane in a way that causes other motorists to crash into each other, you’re responsible for the accident. And you’ll be expected to stop even if your vehicle didn’t sustain any damage.

Legal Implications of Leaving the Accident Scene

Hit and Run

These are the legal implications to know.

Criminal Penalties

Depending on the state, hit and run accidents vary from felony offenses or misdemeanor offenses. Felony hit and run accidents are those that involve someone leaving the scene when there is an injury to a motorist or pedestrian.

Fines or Incarceration

The fines are costly for hit and run accidents in any state, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. There are often additional court-related administrative costs to consider. Felony hit and run crashes present potential for jail time, as well. Based on the severity of the incident, responsible motorists who leave the scene could face up to 15 years in prison. Misdemeanor hit and run charges in some states also include up to one year in jail.

License Revocation

Whether the hit and run accident qualifies as a felony or misdemeanor offense, the charge typically results in an automatic revocation of your driver’s license. Some states mandate six-month minimums for license suspension. Others impose up to three years. If the hit and run accident is deemed severe, motorists could lose their licenses for life.

Civil Implications

If convicted of a hit and run accident that resulted in personal or property damage, you could also stand to face civil litigation from the involved parties seeking restitution. Individuals can bring lawsuits for damages well into the thousands of dollars to cover lost wages, medical expenses, or pain and suffering.

Insurance Coverage Consequences

Many insurance providers have stipulations in their policies that govern motorist coverage in the event of a hit and run accident. It’s not at all uncommon for insurance companies to drop coverage altogether if a motorist is charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

What Should You Do If You’re Involved in a Hit and Run?

There are two ways you could be involved in a hit and run accident – as the cause of the incident or as the victim of the incident.

Involvement As A Victim

If you believe you were a victim in a hit and run accident, it’s important to notify the police immediately. Make sure an accident report is created and secure statements from any key witnesses to the incident.

It’s also imperative that you connect with your insurance provider, including automotive insurance and property insurance. Should the hit and run culprit remain unidentified, your policy might allow you to file an uninsured motorist claim to recover costs.

Officials will conduct an investigation to identify and charge the responsible hit and run offender. Once damages are confirmed and charges leveraged, you can pursue any civil claims. A personal injury lawyer can help you navigate these next steps.

Involvement As The Cause

If you have caused an accident or property damage without reporting it, you are responsible and could face hit and run charges. If the incident is recent enough, you could try to report the accident to the police yourself, which might lessen charges.

However, if you did not report the crash or return to the accident scene, it’s time to connect with experienced legal counsel to advise you of your rights and next steps. A lawyer can explore ways to lessen charges from felony hit and run to misdemeanor hit and run. And a well-versed professional in your state can help you draft your official response.

Legal representation now will also allow you to explore potential plea deals or pre-trial diversion programs that are available in your state. These programs can ultimately reduce potential penalties.

Get the Real Deal Attorneys, Inc. Involved

Hit and Run

The key takeaway is this – don’t leave the scene of any accident regardless of who caused it. Also, from either side of the incident, legal representation is a MUST. If you’re involved in a hit and run or need further clarification about how to proceed, let the Real Deal Attorneys get involved. Our lawyer locator services will help you find experienced attorneys in your state who can help you find resolution. Give us a call at (424) 367-1271 or begin your hit and run lawyer search now!


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