The idea of being in a hit-and-run accident can be terrifying, regardless of which end you’re on. If you’re the victim, your property is hit, or you’re the perpetrator, hit-and-run accidents are scary, but it’s important to remember, if you’re the one who hits a person or property, it doesn’t have to turn into a hit-and-run.
The following are some general things to know about hit-and-run accidents, including what they are, what you should do if you’re the victim, and laws about these accidents.
What is a Hit-and-Run?
We do often think of the most dramatic instances and circumstances when we initially think of hit-and-runs. For example, you might think of someone running a red light and hitting a pedestrian, and this is the most severe type of a hit-and-run.
That’s fairly rare, however.
What’s more common is to hit an object and leave the scene—such as hitting a mailbox or another car. In these instances, there is no bodily injury, but it’s still illegal.
Anytime you hit something in a motor vehicle without leaving your information, and then leave the scene, it’s considered a hit-and-run. However, if there is no one around you leave your information and then file a police report, it wouldn’t be considered a hit-and-run, even though you leave before you talk to someone.
What If You Hit Something in a Parking Lot?
One of the most common ways a hit-and-run occurs is in a parking lot or area where there are other cars, but their drivers aren’t around. In these cases, what should you do to avoid hit-and-run charges?
First, you should stop and take a look at the damage. Make sure you don’t spot the owner or can’t find them anywhere, and then take pictures of the damage and the entire scene. Write down the license plate, make and model of the car or if it’s property, the address and location.
Add a note to what you damaged with your name, contact information and license plate number, and file a police report. It may be wise to file a report with your insurance provider as well.
What If You Leave the Scene?
If you do leave the scene of any kind of hit-and-run accident, the criminal penalties vary depending on the state where you live. In some cases, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony, and it usually depends on the specific circumstances.
A felony hit and run is usually what someone is charged with if there is bodily injury to another person. This includes if the person is a pedestrian, or they’re in a vehicle. In USA, if a driver hits someone who’s a pedestrian or who’s in a car and leaves the scene, the felony charge can include a fine ranging from USD5,000 to USD20,000 depending on the state, and there is also the potential for jail time.
Many hit-and-runs involving bodily injury can be punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Even with a misdemeanor, while it sounds less severe than a felony, there can be a fine of up to USD5,000 and up to a year in jail.
What Should You Do If You Hit Someone?
If you hit a pedestrian, it can be terrifying. For many people, it’s a nightmare-like situation, but there are a right and a wrong way to handle it. First, never leave. Leaving is the worst thing you can do.
You should try to stay calm, and stay with the person at the scene. Call police emergency numbers and then wait for the police.
If you do hit someone and leave or don’t take action and it leads to more severe injuries for the victim, the charges can be worse as well. For example, it could lead to a vehicular manslaughter charge. If you are the cause of an injury, you are required to help the person if you can.
If you temporarily leave the scene to get help but then return, typically it’s not considered a hit-and-run.
Finally, another situation you may wonder about is hitting an animal. If you hit an animal and don’t stop, unless it’s a bird or a small wild animal, and you don’t stop most states will consider it a hit-and-run. This can be especially true if you hit a pet, and charges can include animal cruelty or failure to report. In California, as an example, hitting a pet, horse or livestock animal without stopping and reporting it is a misdemeanor. Pets are considered property in California, and some other states.