Leaving the Scene of an Accident/Hit and Run
When any kind of motor vehicle accident occurs, state traffic laws require the drivers involved to follow certain procedures immediately after the incident. 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); or
- 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).
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 exchange identification and contact information with any other driver involved in the incident.
If a driver collides with an unattended vehicle or other stationary property, 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.
After an accident involving injuries, drivers usually 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.
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."