Someone hit my car and I left the scene- should I get worried about hit and run car accident?
Car accidents occur every time, everywhere. You are enjoying that ride when all of sudden someone hits your car from behind, on second thought, you do not want to rub shoulders with the authorities because, after all, it’s the other driver that hit your car.
What happens if you choose to leave the accident scene? Do you have any case to answer if you are 100% sure the other driver is at-fault for the car crash? what if he/she got injured? What happens if you stop at the accident scene but your driver’s license or insurance coverage is expired or suspended?
Well, this article explores all the possibilities and goes beyond to explain the charges you could face if someone hit your car but you did not stop. Let’s dive in now!
What to Do If You’re Involved in a Hit and Run Accident?
What are hit and run accidents?
A hit and run is a crime you will have committed if you were involved in a car accident but decided not to stop-by and exchange your contact information with the other driver or any party to the accident.
In the USA, any driver that gets involved in a car crash is mandated to stop at the accident scene or at the closest safest point near the crash scene and do the following.
- Exchange contact information with the other party.
- Render assistance in case there are injured people and
- Report the accident to the traffic authorities.
It is against the law to leave any accident scene without observing the above-mentioned requirements. By leaving the scene, you will have committed a hit-and-run crime.
You could be charged with a hit and run felony if the accident resulted in deaths or serious personal injuries, whereas the driver faces a hit and run misdemeanor if there were only property damages or minor bodily injuries.
It does not matter if the car accident is your fault or not. Stopping at the accident scene remains a duty of every driver that is involved in the accident. For example, someone could rear-end you but still authorities charge you if you left the accident scene.
The Consequences of Leaving the Scene After a Car Accident?
The consequences of leaving an accident scene are many and you may not like the experience. Penalties for hit and run accidents include the following.
1. Fines or fees. Depending on where you live, a driver that commits a hit-and-run will be asked to pay fines ranging from $200-$50,000.
2. Suspensions/revocation of your driver’s license. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the state you live in, your driver’s license could be revoked or suspended for up to 3 years.
4. Jail time. If someone hit your car but you decided to leave the scene, you may be jailed for up to 15 years depending on the circumstances of the accident. If someone died in the accident, be sure to face jail time of not less than 12 months.
Why It’s Never a Good Idea to Leave the Scene of an Accident?
Assume you rear-ended someone who leaves the accident scene. Consider a situation you are severely injured but there is absolutely no help in the area the accident took place.
Yes, you caused the accident but you are injured and need help! what if the other driver decides to leave you to die of the accident wounds? Do you think this is good practice? would you love someone else to behave this way if you are the one injured?
Well, this is the very reason the law requires you to stop at the car accident scene and render help to the injured even though someone else caused the accident.
Here is an example. Moses, while riding in his truck was rear-ended by Susan. Susan suffered severe whiplash injuries and also her backbone was affected.
Unfortunately, Moses decided to continue his journey since his car was unaffected. Hours later, good samaritans rushed Susan to the next hospital where she underwent surgery due to her injuries.
3 weeks later, Police comprehended Moses and charged him with a hit and run felony. “I decide to continue driving because I knew I did not cause the accident. On the contrary, the other driver (Susan) hit my car”, said Moses.
“I was charged for a hit and run felony whereby my driving license was suspended for 2 years and paid a fine of $5,000”, Concluded Moses.
Understanding Your Legal Obligations After a Car Accident?
Car accident laws differ from state to state, or differ in different countries. Depending on wherever you live, below are your legal obligations after any car accident.
1. Personal injuries. Your safety and the safety of all people involved take the first priority. If there are any injuries involved, make sure you call 911 or arrange to seek medical attention right away.
2. Report the auto accident. Most states in the USA require you to report to the police any accident where there are bodily injuries, deaths, or property damage.
It is the duty of all the drivers involved to call and invite the police to the accident scene and ensure a car accident report is completed. You can also complete the car accident report by walking over to the police station or by visiting your department of motor vehicles (DMV)
3. Exchange information. All states here in the USA require drivers to stop by and share their contact information. You have a right to know more about the other driver’s name, address, contact, insurance company, insurance policy number, license plate number, and others.
4. Gather evidence. Each driver should try as much to document the accident. Make sure you have taken photos showing injuries, car damages, and the surrounding areas in relation to the accident.
You should also talk to eyewitnesses, and walk around to see if any security camera or any dash cam captured the car accident footage.
5. Contact your insurance company. Though different companies have different policies, make sure you notify the insurance company preferably within 24 hours or in less than 30 days.
6. Cooperate with authorities. Most likely police will be invited to the accident scene. Each driver has a legal obligation of providing the correct information to the police.
7. Seek legal advice. Statistics have shown that only 5% of car accident settlements are done out of court. Despite that, you still need an experienced car accident attorney to help you negotiate with tough insurance companies for your compensation.
The Risks of Fleeing the Scene of an Accident: Penalties and Criminal Charges?
Fleeing the accident scene is against the law unless you already exchanged your contact information or you rendered the required help if any person is injured.
Depending on where you come from, and the circumstances of the accident, you will have committed a hit and run crime which is highly punishable by law.
A person that flees an accident where there are injuries or deaths could face charges of a hit-and-run felony. This implies that the very person committed a serious hit and run.
On the other hand, you will face misdemeanor charges if the hit and run charges you committed involves only property damages or minor injuries.
Depending on the gravity of the hit and run you are charged with, expect to be sentenced with a jail time of up to 15 years, fines of up to $20,000, and revocation or suspension of your driving license.
Steps to Take After Someone Hits Your Car and Leaves the Scene
The most important thing you should do after someone hits your car and left the scene is to stay calm and gather as much evidence as possible.
Getting compensated after a hit and run is hard because you may not have any evidence at all since the other driver fled the scene.
Any insurance company will try to deny you compensation because they have no way of recouping their money if you cannot produce any information about the other driver.
You need to go through the steps I already explained but emphasize getting enough pieces of evidence. studies have shown that only 5% of hits and runs are investigated and solved by police, and the reason behind this is largely a lack of evidence.
How to Handle a Car Accident When the Other Driver Flees the Scene?
Ensure that you went through and observed the steps of a car accident I already explained in the last section of this article.
Getting involved in a car crash is overwhelming but it becomes so confusing if the other driver flees the accident scene. In such a scenario, I advise you to do the following.
1. Stay calm. I have seen many drivers losing temper and even start a fight after an accident. This solves nothing and in fact, escalates issues. You do not want additional charges of assault because you lost your temper.
2. Call the Police. what happens after the accident hinges on what police include in the accident crash report. The police report details opinions and facts about the crash. Whether you need to file a lawsuit or you want to negotiate a settlement could be impacted by the police report.
3. Seek medical attention. I already said that your safety and the safety of any person involved in the car crash remain the priority.
You are entitled to compensation if someone caused the accident in which you got injured or incurred any financial losses.
The compensation settlement you will receive will largely depend on your medical expenses. For example, your compensatory, punitive, or treble damages are all calculated based on the extent of injuries or medical bills.
4. Make sure you notify your insurance company, and other pieces of evidence and if need be, seek legal representation if the other driver fled the accident scene.
What should I do if someone hit my parked car and left?
Someone commits a hit and run if he/she hit your parked car and left no note bearing his contact information. The opposite is true, if the driver left a note after hitting your parked car.
Go through the steps I already explained and search for any note in your car. If the driver left a note, use the information on the note to speak to the driver to know how the accident happened.
Use the information on the note to contact his/her insurance company to kick-start your car accident settlement process. Make sure you invited police to the scene to compile a car accident report.
If the driver left no note, gather as much evidence as you can and let the police do an investigation. Police usually do not put much effort into investigating hit and run where there were no injuries or deaths, unless they have clear evidence and leads.
How do I file a claim for a hit-and-run accident?
For any auto accident, the victim is entitled to receive damages due to the financial losses he/she incurred as a result of the accident.
Sources of the car accident settlement compensation include the following:
- From the at-fault driver’s own savings/income.
- From the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- The victim’s insurance company
- The owner of the car or the at-fault driver’s employer.
Once you have gathered the required evidence as I already explained earlier in this article, you should proceed to file your settlement claim with either of the mentioned sources above.
I strongly recommend you speak to an experienced car accident lawyer (personal injury attorney) if you think there is a huge amount of money you should receive as a settlement.
For example, no insurance company will offer you $50,000 and above, as a settlement if no lawyer is negotiating on your behalf. The reason behind this is that, you may not know the list of damages you are entitled to, and the required pieces of evidence you need to present.
Should I consult with a lawyer if someone hit my parked car and left?
Hiring a car accident attorney if someone hit your parked car remains your personal choice. I hope you understand that the aftermath of a car accident is characterized by hardships.
For example, you may be wondering if you will ever recover any damages if you suffered losses. What if you were driving a financed or leased car?
Ultimately, Consulting with any attorney after someone hits your parked car and leaves, helps you to understand your legal rights and options, and ensures you are fairly compensated for your damages. The car accident lawyer can guide you through the complex legal process and advocate for your best interests.
Irrespective of causing the accident or not, you will have committed a hit-and-run if someone hit your car and you left the scene. The law requires you to stop at the scene and exchange your contact information and render help to the injured.
If the person that hit your car suffered injuries, you are required by law to render help like arranging to transfer the person to the hospital, and you also must report that car crash to the authorities.