Hit and Run Accidents — What You Need to Know

Auto Accident, Personal Injury / May 20, 2021

Hit and run accidents occur more frequently than most people think. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one hit and run accident occurs every minute in the United States. Hit and run accidents cause more than 2,000 deaths each year and represent 20-percent of all pedestrian deaths.

Let’s take a closer look at hit and run accidents — and what you should do if you are involved in one.

Understanding Hit and Run Collisions

Hit and run accidents range widely in severity. A driver may be traveling at night or in heavy traffic, strike something in a glancing fashion and not realize damage occurred. Or, a driver may strike a pedestrian violently, be fully aware of what happened, and flee the scene due to panic and fear.

Given how often hit and run accidents occur, it is clear that some people have an urge to flee when faced with this situation. However, that decision can have serious legal repercussions.

These repercussions extend to parked vehicles as well. Most hit and run incidents, in fact, involve parked cars. Damaging a parked car and leaving the scene is punishable under California state law.

There is one exception: If you make a legitimate attempt to locate the owner of the damaged vehicle and cannot — and you subsequently file a police report — then you cannot be charged with hit and run.

Many people are also under the mistaken assumption that drivers who strike an animal do not need to stop and report the collision. In most states, drivers are required to stop and contact authorities, whether the animal is a pet, livestock etc. Most states do have an exemption for birds and small animals, such as squirrels.

Legal Penalties

Hit and run accidents may result in court fines, points on your driving record, a revoked or suspended license and even prison or jail time in the most serious cases.

Additionally, a hit and run conviction can make it exceedingly expensive or difficult to secure conventional auto insurance. Those with a conviction may have to carry SR-22 insurance, which is commonly carried by those with multiple DUI or DWI charges or other serious driving convictions. 

How to React

If you are involved in an auto collision, it is imperative that you stop and provide accurate information to the other parties involved. If the car is parked, look nearby for the owner and leave a detailed note if you cannot find the owner. Leave your name and contact information. You should also file a police report immediately and contact your insurer.

If you have left the scene — or are facing charges for leaving a scene — it is critically important to reach out to an experienced legal advocate who can help you contest any legal charges.

If you have been injured by a hit and run driver, you should also consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in auto accident litigation. The right attorney can help ensure that insurance companies treat you fairly and that you are fairly compensated for your losses.

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