The majority of people know how to operate a motor vehicle and will, at some point, do so on a regular basis. This means that they are susceptible to accidents and collisions, both with objects and people. Everyone makes mistakes; however, leaving the scene after an accident may constitute as a hit and run, resulting in significant penalties as a result. It is important to understand your responsibilities when you are in a car accident.
What Constitutes A Hit & Run?
Hit and run events include objects, cars and people. If your vehicle strikes an object, individual or another vehicle, you must remain on the scene or provide your information and file a report. Otherwise, you may be guilty of a hit and run.
This specific type of traffic occurrence has escalated in numbers over the years, with an increase of 7.2% in deaths caused by hit and runs annually. On average, this type of vehicle accident occurs once per minute in the United States. As many as 20% of all pedestrian deaths in the last 10 years are a result of a hit and run.
Your Legal Requirements After You Have Hit Someone Or Something
Many people assume that if an accident is not their fault, such as being cut off by another driver causing them to swerve into an object, they are free to leave the scene.
This is not true; any individual who was involved with an accident and subsequently leaves the scene, may be guilty of a hit and run. It is important that you remain on the scene, or you may face jail time, fines, points on your driving record and license suspension.
Accidents With Damaged Property
If you have been in an accident that resulted in damaged property, including another vehicle, remain at the scene and assess the damage. Be sure to take pictures and document the other car’s license plate. Be sure to speak to the owner of the property, who may have noticed the occurrence.
Accidents When No One Is Present
It is also possible to have been in an accident when no one else is there. You cannot reasonably be expected to remain at the scene until someone arrives. In this situation, it would not be considered a hit and run if you leave your contact information and then preemptively report the accident to the police. Once you have done this, you may leave without facing the hit and run consequences.
Accidents That Have Caused Injury
If an individual has been injured during the incident, the first priority is to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Even if the other person says that they are not injured, it is best to call for medical aid anyway, as some injuries are not readily apparent and may manifest later. You must wait at the scene until medical personnel arrive; simply calling an ambulance and then leaving is not sufficient.
What About Accidents Involving Animals?
You may be surprised to know that striking an animal with your vehicle and then leaving also qualifies as a hit and run. Typically, small animals such as squirrels do not require that you stop, but domestic animals, horses, livestock and large animals such as deer should be reported to the police so that the roadway can be made safe again.
In some situations, pets may be regarded as property, in which the standard protocol for a hit and run will apply. Failure to report that you have hit an animal may result not only in charges of a hit and run, but also animal cruelty charges.
Typically, a driver will not be found at fault for hitting an animal unless it is possible to prove that the accident was intentional or that the driver was negligent. However, not being at fault does not mean that it is permissible to leave the scene without the standard reporting of the accident.
Work With An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney In Your Hit & Run Case
What constitutes a hit and run may not always be immediately apparent, especially in a unique situation. Thinking clearly immediately after an accident can be a challenge. If you have been charged with a hit and run, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to understand the elements and compile a strong case to reduce your penalties.
The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge would be happy to help you evaluate your situation and advocate on your behalf to seek the minimal penalties applicable to your case. Contact our offices to schedule a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.