While the immediate aftermath of a collision can be chaotic, how those involved handle it has far-reaching consequences. If a driver wrecks a car and leaves it at the scene without taking responsibility or reporting the crash, the may face legal consequences. Leaving the accident scene is generally considered a criminal offense in many jurisdictions.
At Vaughan & Vaughan, we have been fighting on behalf of the injured for over 100 years. If you were in a collision, our Indianapolis car accident lawyers will review your legal options. Our law firm serves all of Indiana. Call us today to schedule a free case consultation.
Does Leaving a Damaged Vehicle at the Scene Count as a Hit-and-Run?
Leaving your damaged vehicle and departing the scene of an accident can be categorized as a hit-and-run, depending on the specific circumstances and legal definitions in your jurisdiction.
A hit-and-run generally refers to any situation where a driver involved in a crash fails to fulfill their legal obligations. These typically include stopping at the scene, exchanging information with other parties involved, and reporting the incident to law enforcement.
By departing without taking these necessary steps, you may be committing a hit-and-run offense, subject to legal penalties.
Legal Consequences of Leaving the Car Accident Scene
Leaving the scene of a car accident is charged under specific statutes in the state’s criminal code. The charges and penalties can vary depending on the circumstances of the incident.
Leaving the car accident scene is classified as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the details of the incident. Most states view leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in injuries (to a passenger, another driver, or a pedestrian) as a felony.
For example, in Indiana, if the hit-and-run results in serious bodily injury to another person, it can be charged as a Level 6 felony. These are more serious offenses and can result in higher penalties, including imprisonment for up to two and a half years.
Penalties can vary based on the specific circumstances of each case. The court will consider factors such as the extent of injuries, prior criminal record, and other relevant details when determining the appropriate charges and penalties.
The Penalties for Fleeing the Car Accident Scene
Penalties for hit-and-run incidents are put in place to ensure accountability and discourage individuals from fleeing the scene of a collision. These penalties can vary significantly based on the jurisdiction, the severity of the accident, and the local laws.
While these penalties vary between states, they mostly consist of fines that can be roughly between $5,000 – $20,000. A conviction for a hit-and-run felony charge can also result in prison time.
Even if the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties can be severe in some states. These can include high fines and possible jail time.
These are usually assigned in addition to criminal penalties by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Hit-and-run convictions typically result in the revocation or suspension of the driver’s license for a set period. In more severe cases, some states may revoke a license indefinitely.
For example, in Indiana, a driver will have their license suspended for ten years if, over the course of ten years, they have three major offenses, such as:
- Leaving the car crash scene or not notifying authorities of a collision when required.
- Driving while intoxicated or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more.
- Reckless driving.
- Drag racing.
Other people involved in the crash could sue the driver who left the car at the accident scene for damages. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff could claim compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and more.
If the at-fault driver left the scene, the court will likely order higher damages to be paid out to the victims. In some states, such a case is more likely to qualify for punitive damages. These are awarded in addition to compensatory damages and are meant to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in reckless behavior.
A Car Accident Lawyer Will Help You Handle the Legal Aftermath
Leaving the car at the accident scene can result in serious legal consequences and severe penalties. How the offense will be charged and punished depends on the state laws.
If you or a loved one were involved in a car crash, seek immediate legal guidance. A car accident lawyer will help you better understand how local laws and regulations impact your case.
At Vaughan & Vaughan, we will make sure that you get all the information you need to make informed decisions about your next steps. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case.