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What to Do If You're Accused of Hit and Run

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Not every hit and run involves a serious injury or extensive damage. It can be as simple as walking into a restaurant after you bumped another car while parallel parking. Technically speaking, a hit and run occurs whenever a person involved in a traffic accident leaves the scene before identifying themselves or reporting the accident.

A hit and run can happen to anybody, so what should you do if you're accused of a hit and run?

What you're required to do after an accident can depend on the accident itself:

  • Property Damage Only: If you hit a parked or unattended vehicle or other stationary object, you generally need to make a reasonable effort to identify the property owner and alert them as to what happened;
  • Injury or Death to Others: If another driver, passenger, or a pedestrian is injured in the accident, you normally have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to help any injured person, which may include calling for emergency medical assistance, and to report the accident to local law enforcement.

Despite the particulars, all states make it a crime to leave the scene of an accident without reporting the accident to law enforcement, providing identifying information, or providing aid to someone who might need help. Penalties can range from a suspended license to prison time, depending on the severity of the accident and whether the driver was intoxicated or anyone was injured.

Of course, the best way to avoid these penalties is to know what the legal requirements are after an accident and obey them. If you've been charged with hit and run, you may be able to claim an affirmative defense and prove that you did comply with the law. If you have evidence that you called law enforcement, left a note, or contacted the owner of damaged property, it could be a defense to the charge.

And if you're accused of any crime, your first step should be to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.

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