When involved in a car accident or collision, most people are aware that they must provide personal information to the other party; however, not all circumstances are clear when it comes to determining when they are allowed to leave the scene.
In some instances, you may be guilty of a hit and run if you leave too soon or without following the proper procedure. Even if the incident has since passed, you may still be able to be charged with a hit and run depending upon how recent the accident or collision was.
Common Misconceptions About A Hit & Run Accident
In broad terms, a hit and run can be described as an auto accident or collision in which the person who caused the damage leaves the scene prior to completing their legal obligations.
Leaving After Requesting Medical Assistance
One of the most common misunderstandings about hit and run accidents is the belief that you may leave the scene once you have called for medical assistance. Once you have called for an ambulance, you must wait on the scene until the other person completes their medical intake procedures.
Leaving Or Not Reporting An Accident Involving An Animal
Similarly, it is commonly thought that hitting an animal does not count as a hit and run. While this is true of small animals such as squirrels, you must still make reports about large animals, farm animals and pets. This allows authorities to address the situation, making the roadways safe for other drivers; failure to do so could result in a hit and run charge.
How To Avoid A Hit & Run Charge In Virginia
To avoid a hit & run charge in Virginia, it is important that you understand your responsibilities when involved in an accident. You must stop your vehicle as close to the scene as possible, as long as you can do so safely without blocking traffic, and contact either the state police or local law enforcement.
You will be required to provide your name, address, driver’s license information and vehicle information, such as your registration number. If someone is injured, you must report the injury and assist, by calling an ambulance and waiting for it to arrive, or in remote areas, driving the injured person to the hospital.
If you have hit someone’s property or possessions, it is your responsibility to attempt to locate the owner. If you are not able to locate that person(s), you must leave a note and make a report to the police.
How Long After A Hit & Run Can You Be Charged In Virginia?
In Virginia, the statute of limitations is two years for car accidents that resulted in injury or death. However, damage to a vehicle or property can be pursued for up to five years after the event.
This time period begins on the date of the accident with the exception of scenarios in which an individual dies as a result of the collision. In the event of a related death, the time begins upon that person’s death. In these events, you may be charged for a hit and run even after it has occurred.
Potential Penalties Of A Hit & Run Charge
When charged with a hit and run, the types of penalties may vary depending upon the details of the incident. For minor damage less than $250, a Class 4 misdemeanor is the most common result; this places a criminal conviction on your record and an appropriate fine amount will be determined.
Accidents that result in more extensive damage up to $1000 are upgraded to a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can carry up to 1 year in jail. If the vehicle or property was attended at the time and there is more than $1000 in damage, or if someone was injured or killed, the driver could face a Class 5 felony with up to 10 years in prison.
It is important to note that passengers are not immune from consequences in a hit and run. Even if you were not operating the vehicle that was involved in the accident, but you were a passenger and failed to report the event, you can be charged equally with the driver. In the case of a Class 5 felony for the driver, you may be charged with a Class 6 felony and up to five years in prison, for example.
Work With Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers For The Best Outcome
Whether you have just been in a collision and are concerned that it may have been a hit and run or you have been charged with a hit and run and are unsure of what to do next, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge will help you determine what to do next. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to minimize your penalties as much as possible.