When any kind of motor vehicle accident occurs, state traffic laws require the drivers involved to follow certain procedures immediately after the incident. Generally, those involved in an accident must stay at the scene immediately after it occurs, get medical help for anyone in need, and wait for police to arrive. But it really depends on the facts in the case. In most states, the specific procedure that must be followed depends on whether the accident:
- Caused damage to property only (i.e. hitting a parked vehicle);
- Caused injuries to others (i.e. another driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian); or
- Resulted in a person's death (i.e. another driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian).
What to Do Immediately After an Accident
Typically, state traffic laws require that any driver involved in an accident stop his or her vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so and follow these steps:
- Check on all drivers and passengers; provide basic first aid and/or call for emergency medical help if needed
- Call the police; an official police record will help make sure evidence is preserved and all proper procedures are followed
- Exchange information, such as driver's licenses, proof of insurance, and contact information
- Identify and talk to witnesses who can verify the facts of the incident
- Contact your insurance company, and the other driver's insurance company (if applicable)
Much of the above will help you when it comes time to either file an injury claim or defend against one. But by all means do not leave the scene of the accident, as it can lead to serious criminal charges. However, minor instances that are charged as misdemeanors can sometimes be pleaded down to infractions.
Collissions with Unattended Vehicles
If a driver collides with an unattended vehicle or some other stationary property (such as a mailbox or fence), most states mandate that he or she make a reasonable effort to identify the property owner and alert them as to what happened by, for example:
- Taking down the vehicle's license number if a parked car is damaged, or
- Leaving a written notice at the scene (with the driver's identifying information) if other property is damaged.
What do Do After and Injury Accident
After an accident involving injuries, drivers typically have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to help any injured person -- including calling for assistance from emergency medical services -- and to report the accident to local law enforcement. But if an injured person is immobilized, be careful not to move them as it could exacerbate or create a whole new injury.
Any driver who fails to fulfill their duties after being involved in an accident can receive a traffic ticket, at a minimum. In some cases, especially when an accident causes injury or death, a driver who leaves the scene of an accident can be subject to serious criminal charges such as "felony hit and run." As with most legal issues, it really depends on the facts of the individual case.
Need Legal Help with a Hit and Run Charge?
Leaving the scene of an accident is a big deal and is often charged as a criminal offense, unless you're able to launch an effective defense. Each case is different, and you may have a legitimate reason for not sticking around after an accident. In any event, make sure you speak with a traffic or criminal law attorney if you've been involved in an accident.