Simply put, fleeing the scene of an auto accident is illegal. While the cause of an accident is typically a civil matter, the crime of hit-and-run occurs after the fact and often involves three basic elements:
- Failing to stop at the scene,
- Failure to provide identification, or
- Failing to offer assistance to anyone injured as a result of the accident.
Every state has laws criminalizing hit-and-run crashes and penalties vary according to circumstances. If no one is injured then a misdemeanor charge might apply, although significant property damage could result in a felony. A collision causing serious injury or death will almost certainly amount to felony hit-and-run charges with potential time in prison if convicted.
According to the AAA Foundation, hit-and-run deaths have increased an average of 7.2 percent every year since 2009. Further, nearly 65 percent of people killed in hit-and-run accidents are pedestrians and bicyclists.
If you are involved in a car accident, it is imperative that you do not leave the scene prematurely. Instead, assist anyone who might be injured by calling 911, protect yourself by moving your vehicle out of the path of other vehicles, if possible, and use lights, flashers, and other means to alert passing drivers. Then, find a safe place to call the police and communicate with emergency responders when they arrive. Once you are safe, use your cell phone to take pictures of any damage or injuries, and contact your insurance company.
Drivers that hit stationary objects like parked cars or other standing property are still required to follow regular accident procedures. Many states have hit-and-run provisions requiring drivers to leave a note with their contact information on damaged property and report the incident to law enforcement and their insurance company. Drivers are legally responsible even if no one else is around to witness the accident.
In addition to criminal prosecution, hit-and-run drivers can face additional consequences. This can include civil lawsuits brought by others involved in the accident, as well as penalties from a state department of motor vehicles and increased auto insurance premiums.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a hit-and-run accident, it is imperative to contact an experienced, local attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can provide critical legal guidance and help you assert your rights. Know that we are your local law firm team right here in Tallahassee ready to help you with your case 24 hours a day. Do not wait to contact our law firm.