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There are 682,000 hit and run incidents in the U.S each year. Given the prevalence of these tragic accidents, there still isn’t much education about them.
For instance, what should you do if faced with hit and run charges? If you’re not sure what to do after a hit and run, we’re here to help.
We’ve assembled a guide to types of hit and runs, what to do after a car accident, and what these charges actually mean. Let’s get started!
What Is a Hit and Run?
Legally speaking, hit and runs occur when you hit something with your vehicle and take off without offering assistance, leaving contact information, or calling emergency services.
This can include:
- Hitting a pedestrian
- Hitting someone’s parked car
- Hitting property (such as someone’s fence)
- Hitting a bicyclist
It’s common for drivers to panic after making a mistake behind the wheel. However, taking off isn’t the answer.
There are a few factors that contribute to being charged with a hit and run. These charges can come with administrative, civil, and criminal penalties.
Knowledge is the primary factor at play when it comes to hit and run charges. If a driver is not aware the collision occurred, they aren’t held responsible for not stopping, offering assistance, leaving contact information, or providing identification.
However, claiming ignorance is difficult. It’s the same issue as claiming a dog ate your homework in school. While it could be true, it’s not likely—and worse, it’s not very believable, as all car accident attorneys could tell you!
It’s not necessary to establish fault for hit and run charges. Even if a driver follows all the rules and is careful behind the wheel, a pedestrian could jump out on the road.
While the driver is not at fault, they still can’t take off. Instead, they are still responsible to stop, offer aid, and provide contact information. If a driver takes off, they can then be charged with a hit and run.
Depending on the state you live, property can be a complicated situation when it comes to a hit and run. Some states will only convict you of a hit and run on a public road. Other states will convict you if there is a hit and run incident on private property, too.
If you weren’t behind the wheel, you might rest easy. Not so fast! If you hop into the passenger seat and play getaway driver from a hit and run, you will then be charged. If you encourage the driver to take off, you can also face criminal charges.
What Happens with Hit and Run Charges?
If you’re wondering what to do after a car accident, it’s simple: provide assistance, identification, and contact information. Cooperate with law enforcement and emergency personnel. Contact your insurance, and file any claims necessary.
However, those are only the first steps. Hit and runs are a crime, partly because of a failure to take the above actions. However, the damage, injury, or death must also be accounted for.
Your hit-and-run charge depends on the statute of limitations. In many cases, there is a statute of limitations of one year. If it’s a federal case that only involves property damages, you can be held liable for up to three years after the incident.
However, this changes if someone was hurt or killed as a result of the hit and run. The statute of limitations in these cases is eight years.
While each state varies, these are the generic expectations for how long the statute of limitation holds after the incident. The counting period starts as soon as the incident occurs.
What Does the Investigation Look Like?
Each investigation is different. The goal is to obtain information that allows law enforcement to identify the vehicle and the driver. This includes:
- License registration number
- Make and model of the vehicle
- A description of the driver
- A description of the victim if they haven’t made a report
In these cases, eyewitness testimonials, security footage, or traffic cameras can prove invaluable.
If this information is readily accessible, then the investigation can proceed. In these cases, it will be relatively easy to apprehend the driver involved.
90% of hit and run cases go unsolved. In some cases, the victim doesn’t come forward and report. In other cases, the driver doesn’t turn themselves in.
However, the real issue is that law enforcement is drowning in hit and run cases. There are too many cases and not enough resources. This can make hit and runs difficult to solve, which is especially heartbreaking in instances of injury or death.
What Penalties Are Associated With Hit and Run Charges?
If you’re involved in a hit and run, what will happen? It depends on the situation and the state that you find yourself in. Out of all types of car accidents, hit and runs are not looked upon favorably.
The penalties change based on whether your hit and run are classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanors can include fines that range from $5,000 to $20,000. They can also come with a year in jail.
Felony hit and runs can result in up to 15 years in prison. The penalty depends on whether someone was injured or died.
Hit and run charges will also result in higher insurance premiums. Depending on the circumstances, you could also be sued by the victim. You may also receive civil penalties.
Often, these include:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Loss of wages
If you’re wondering what to do after a hit and run, stay! It’s the right thing to do, but it will also save you a lot of stress in the end.
Hit and Run Charges
No one wants to deal with hit and run charges. Even if you are the most careful driver around, accidents still happen.
If you get involved in a hit and run, make sure to offer assistance, contact information, and identification. This will save you time, money, and legal issues.
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