If you fail to stop after an accident, you can be in for a lot of legal trouble. This can include criminal charges and making a lawsuit against you worse.
What is failure to stop?
Most states have laws that say if you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident, you have to stop and exchange information with the other driver. If there was a person injured or a certain amount of property damage, you may also be required to notify a law enforcement officer.
Is failure to stop a crime?
Failure to stop is subject to criminal penalties in many places.
Not stopping for after a car accident can prevent an injured person who suffered serious physical harm from receiving medical treatment if no one else is around to report the accident. It also prevents innocent drivers from being able to file property damage claims against drivers who flee.
Finally, failure to stop can cover up other crimes, such as driving while under the influence or possession of illegal drugs.
Can you get sued for failure to stop?
There is usually no specific civil claim for failure to stop. What this means is that the reason for a lawsuit can’t be failing to remain at the scene of the accident.
Failure to stop could make it harder to defend against a lawsuit or increase what you had to pay in a lawsuit.
For example, say the other driver ran a stop sign and hit you but you leave the scene of the accident. The other driver then tells a police officer that you’re the one who ran the stop sign. Since you left, the police officer, insurance company, and jury will often believe that you’re the one who ran the stop sign or you wouldn’t have run away.
You could also face a higher claim for damages in an accident involving bodily injury. If you don’t report an accident and the person injured can’t call for help and suffers more serious bodily injury as a result, a jury may find that the injured person’s injuries were made worse by your failure to stop.
Is there ever a good reason not to stop after an accident?
There is almost never a good reason not to stop after an accident. If you say you weren’t aware that you hit someone, that will usually be taken as a sign that you were driving without proper awareness.
In some cases, you may feel unsafe due to how the other driver is acting. You should dial 911 and drive to the nearest police authority or ask where you can meet a police officer.
If you try to get out of traffic into a parking lot or side street and lose track of the other driver, you should immediately call the police and explain what happened. They’ll either help you meet up with the other driver or take your report so you can’t later be accused of hit and run.
What should you do if you hit an unattended motor vehicle?
If you hit an unattended motor vehicle and can’t locate the owner, you should at least leave your information.
Depending on the amount of damage, you may also be required by law to notify the police. It may be a good idea to make a police report in any case just so no one can claim it was a hit-and-run offense.
What should you do if you hit an object?
Hitting public or private property such as a light pole, mailbox, or other stationary item is generally the same as hitting another motor vehicle. You’ll usually need to pay for the damage.
If you can’t find the owner, you’ll usually need to contact the police. If you drive away, remember that there’s a good chance that you were caught on camera and will be found eventually.
It’s usually better to take financial responsibility than to risk possible criminal charges.
Who pays for a hit-and-run accident?
When a vehicle involved in a car accident leaves the scene, it generally doesn’t change who was responsible for the accident. The fault is generally the same as if both drivers had remained on the scene.
Of course, leaving the scene of the accident could make it harder for people to believe you in a he said, she said situation.
If you had your motor vehicle damaged or suffered bodily injury because of a hit-and-run driver who you couldn’t track down, your own uninsured motorist coverage will typically cover you.
What kind of lawyer do you need if you left the scene of the accident?
Criminal defense lawyers handle cases where you’ve been criminally charged for leaving the scene of an accident. If you’re getting sued for hit and run, you may need a personal injury defense attorney. You should usually also contact your insurance company, but not reporting an accident can keep you from being covered in some cases.
If you need to sue someone for a hit and run, contact a personal injury attorney or car accident lawyer. Don’t forget to follow your insurance company’s rules for filing a claim on time as well.