Getting into a vehicle accident might trigger some fairly primitive human instincts: our initial reaction may be to escape the scene if we believe we’ve done something wrong. Drivers in every state are required to stop at the site of an automobile collision if it is safe to do so.
- Criminal charges may be filed if you flee the scene of an automobile accident.
- If you conduct a hit-and-run, your driver’s license will most likely be suspended or canceled, and your auto insurance coverage may be invalidated.
What is Hit and Run?
In general, a hit and run happens when you are engaged in an automobile collision (either with a person, another car, or a fixed object) and then leave the area without identifying yourself or rendering aid to anyone who may require assistance. Any accident with an animal is included in the definition of “hit and run” in at least a few states.
In most places, it doesn’t matter if you were at fault for the vehicle collision. Simply leaving the site is enough to commit the crime. Several jurisdictions do not consider it a hit and run if you must leave the site of an accident to obtain emergency help—for example, by leaving a rural mobile phone “dead area” to gain a signal—as long as you return to the accident scene quickly.
Criminal Penalties in Hit and Run
The legal consequences of a hit-and-run differ from state to state. Depending on the circumstances, a hit-and-run might be categorized as a crime or a misdemeanor. Most states describe felony hit and run as fleeing the scene of an accident involving any form of injury to a person, whether the victim is a pedestrian or a vehicle occupant.
The consequences of a felony hit-and-run can be severe. Fines range from $5,000 to $20,000 in most states. And the possibility of jail as a result of a felony hit-and-run is extremely real. In some places, a felony hit and run can result in up to 15 years in jail, depending on the severity of the event and the injuries sustained.
Remember that a hit-and-run may be charged as a misdemeanor rather than a felony. While the term “misdemeanor” may seem innocuous to some, misdemeanors in most states are punishable by a substantial fine of up to $5,000 as well as up to one year in prison.
If you are the one who caused the accident, another party may file a lawsuit against you for the losses they sustained. A case like this might seek monetary damages for medical costs, missed earnings, and property damage.
Of course, if you are found to be at blame for the vehicle accident, even if you did not perform a hit and run at the site of the accident, you will face a lawsuit. However, if you are found to be responsible for a hit and run in addition to causing the accident, the damages that a court requires you to pay would almost certainly be doubled. Punitive penalties, often known as “treble damages,” are imposed by several jurisdictions for hit-and-run drivers.