After a car accident, your emotions usually run high. You may be scared, confused or angry. All of those emotions are completely normal, and you're certainly not alone. However, amid all these feelings, it's important to remember that you must stay at the scene of the accident.
Even if the other person leaves, don't chase them, and certainly don't run away yourself even if the other party leaves. If you leave without taking care of everything correctly, you could be charged with a "hit and run."
Here is a quick checklist of to-dos before you leave the scene:
- Check to see if everyone is okay. Call 911 if someone needs medical attention.
- Notify the police
- Trade information with the other driver and any witnesses.
- Take pictures and gather other proof of what happened.
Accidents are always tricky, even if they seem minor at first, and a hit and run adds to the complication. Accident.com can connect you with an accident attorney to help.
Leaving Has Lasting Consequences
No matter how minor the accident seems, always stop. Not only is it the right thing to do, but if you keep driving, you could also be charged with a hit and run. This charge comes with various potential criminal penalties. If no one's hurt in the crash, criminal charges for a hit and run may classify as a misdemeanor. However, the accident could turn into a felony charge if someone is injured or dies.
For example, the punishment for a felony hit and run in Minnesota can include three years in jail and a $5,000 fine. This charge doesn't include any other penalties for the underlying crash. For example, if you were driving under the influence at the time of the crash, that'll come with its own set of penalties.
Criminal charges and fines aside, fleeing the scene also delays medical care to an injured person. Such delays could make the injuries worse.
Additionally, it's important to know that in most states, a hit and run can happen in more places than you may think. For example, a hit and run may occur in a driveway, parking lot or other private property as well as a highway or public road.
Another important note to remember: Even if you hit an empty parked car, you still shouldn't leave the scene without leaving a note. In fact, in many states like California, it's a crime to not leave a note with your name and address if you hit a parked car while the other driver is gone.
It's worth repeating: Stay at the scene even if the other driver flees. By staying at the accident, you're doing the right thing and showing both the police and a jury that you're responsible and aren't trying to avoid your duties.
Get Emergency Medical Help
With your duties in mind though, remember that helping the injured is most important. Call 911 if needed, even if that means you have to leave the scene. Most states, like Iowa, allow a driver to leave the crash to get medical help for fatal injuries as long as the driver calls 911 right away. Some states also deem it okay to briefly leave the scene to find cell service to call 911.
However, be sure to return as soon as possible. This rule doesn't give you an excuse to leave the scene permanently.
If you don't need critical medical help, it's still important to see a doctor after the crash. You may have serious car accident injuries that you don't feel right away.
Exchange Information and Gather Evidence
While you're waiting for the police and ambulance to arrive, get the other driver’s full name, mailing and email addresses, birth date, and insurance information. Also, write down the make and model of their car as well as the license plate state and number.
If there are witnesses, get their names and contact information too. Neutral witnesses can be critical to your case, but they usually don't stay at the scene for long. Often, they leave before the police can talk with them. So, get their full names, phone numbers and addresses for yourself.
Take pictures of the cars involved as well. Photograph the scene and anything else you think will help prove how the accident happened, who was there and the condition of the vehicles.
An Accident.com lawyer can use this evidence to your benefit so you can get the right compensation.
Do the Right Thing
After a hit and run accident, be sure you stay to help the injured and get the other party's information. These actions aren't just the right thing to do, but they can also help you in a court case.
If you've been in a collision, you don't have to handle it on your own. A lawyer can help you. Reach out to Accident.com now to connect with a qualified attorney and get a free consultation. There are time limits for filing your claim though, so don't hesitate to get in touch.