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Did you know that around 682,000 crashes every year involve a driver fleeing the scene of the accident? Unfortunately, this number tends to grow annually as well!
Reasons why drivers flee the scene can range from a simple misunderstanding to concerns over the legal consequences of getting caught. For example, you might think that you don’t need to stay since the accident looks minor, or you might worry that the other driver will hurt you.
However, leaving the scene of an accident can have legal consequences that cause much more harm.
Read on to learn what could happen
You Could Get a Misdemeanor or Felony
Depending on your state and accident, you might end up with a misdemeanor or felony on your record if you flee the scene of an accident. The punishment can depend on how you were involved and what damage occurred.
For example, if you were just a passenger in the car, then you usually won’t have to face any consequences if you take off. But if you’re a driver involved directly, you’ll have to face any penalties.
If you hit a vehicle and took off, you’ll get charged with a hit-and-run and deal with a lot more than just possibly a junk car resulting from the accident.
Usually, a hit-and-run comes with a misdemeanor charge for minor damage. This means the accident didn’t hurt anybody and caused just some damage to the other vehicle or other property. Likely, your punishment wouldn’t be too extreme.
On the other hand, things get much more serious if you hit another car or person and take off when the other person had gotten injured or killed. This leads to a felony charge that can result in harsh penalties and issues for many years to come.
You Might Pay a High Fine and Damages
A common penalty for leaving the scene of an accident is having to pay legal costs and possibly also restitution to the driver or person you hit.
If you get charged with a misdemeanor, you could pay upwards of $1,000 in fines. This can skyrocket to $10,000 if you face a felony charge. Your state laws ultimately determine this cost.
However, your expenses don’t stop there. The driver or person you harmed can try to sue you for damages.
When you’re unfortunate enough to have to deal with getting legal help and going to court, you face attorney fees and possibly a large amount of money for the lawsuit.
And even if you had a single-vehicle crash that hit something like a telephone pole or someone’s property, fleeing the scene without informing the authorities can still lead to costly fines. Plus, you’ll need to replace that property.
You Could Go to Jail
When you leave the scene of an accident for which you’re responsible, you can face varying lengths of jail time depending on whether you get a felony or misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor hit-and-run incidents can usually lead up to one year of jail time. Felony incidents, however, can send you to prison for many years.
At the same time, you could end up getting charged with additional crimes alongside the hit-or-run that will add to your prison sentence. For example, if you had been drinking and driving, then you’ll also get the time added for a DUI charge.
You Can Lose Your Insurance and License
A common requirement for maintaining your car insurance coverage includes acting honestly and informing the proper authorities whenever you have an accident. So, when you get involved in a hit-or-run, your car insurance company can find out and terminate your insurance coverage.
Since you can’t legally drive without insurance, this can cause a lot of inconveniences. Even worse, other insurance companies may not want to do business with you either. If you do get coverage again or maintain your current coverage, you can expect higher rates.
Further, your state can even take away your driver’s license for a hit-or-run, even if it just leads to a misdemeanor. This might last just six months, a few years or even permanently depending on the incident and your state. Along with dealing with frustration, you might even lose your job if it requires having a valid driver’s license.
Know Your Duties When an Accident Occurs
To avoid all of these complications that can make your life harder, you should prepare beforehand to learn how to handle a car accident. That way, you won’t try to figure everything out when you feel stressed and scared when an accident happens.
Your first duty when a car accident happens is to stay at the scene of the accident and ignore the urge to run away. While you might think it will help you avoid the consequences, it will in reality just make the situation a whole lot worse!
However, maybe it’s not safe to leave your vehicle where the accident happened. Perhaps you’re in the middle of dangerous traffic.
In that case, pull the vehicle over to safety and remain there. Direct the other vehicle to do the same.
You’ll also need to check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Also, find out if other people involved in the other vehicle are OK.
Call for emergency medical help if necessary and call the police so that you can report the accident. You’ll also need to call your insurance company after you handle these other needs.
You can expect to share your driver information with the other driver, take pictures of the cars and scene, and get some statements from witnesses.
You can check out these tips from theamlawgroup.com for more advice on handling a car accident the right way.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Isn’t Worth It
The possibilities of fines, jail time, and other consequences that hurt you make leaving the scene of an accident a horrible idea. Instead, face any legal and monetary consequences of the accident upfront and avoid making things worse for you.
If you have already left the scene of an accident, consider getting an attorney as soon as possible. While you can’t expect to get entirely free of the consequences, you might luck out and get some lesser charges.
To learn more about legal issues following car accidents, be sure to check our other posts.