What is a Hit and Run Accident and Is it Illegal to Leave the Scene?

Fleeing from the scene of a car accident isn’t a good idea, but approximately 10% of all crashes and 20% of pedestrian crash fatalities involve a hit and run. Every 43 seconds, a hit and run accident takes place in the US, even though the driver will face strict penalties if caught.

What is a Hit and Run Accident?

A hit and run are when a driver gets into an accident (with a fixed object, pedestrian, or other car) and leaves the scene without identifying themselves or helping the injured parties. In some states, you can get in a hit and run collision with an animal if you don’t notify the pet owners.

Although the at-fault party is typically the person leaving the scene, fault doesn’t matter in a hit and run accident. If you leave the scene for any other reason but to get help, it’s a hit and run.

Keep in mind that most states extend hit and run laws to cover highways, public roads, and parking lot collisions. For example, if you scratched up a person’s car while backing out of a mall and you don’t leave a note on the windshield with your contact info, it’s considered a hit and run. 

Criminal Penalties for Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident

Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal in all states, but penalties change depending on where you live and the driver’s prior convictions. For example, a person in Chicago, Illinois, would be hit with a Class 1, 2, or 4 Felony if they injured or killed a person in a hit and run.

Because hit and run accident laws differ based on where the crime occurred, it’s important that you speak to a local lawyer if you’re seeking compensation for your damages. For example, the lawyers at Abels & Annes can represent you successfully if you live in Chicago, Illinois.

When is a Hit and Run a Misdemeanor or Felony?

A collision that results in serious injuries or death will almost always lead to a felony hit and run charge. The courts may turn a misdemeanor property charge into a felony if the damage is severe enough. But if no one is hurt in the collision, the charge will often be a misdemeanor. 

What are the Penalties of a Misdemeanor Hit and Run?

Whether you’re in a rental vehicle, driving your friend’s car, or operating your own at the time of an accident, a misdemeanor hit and run conviction will typically hold the same weight. If it’s your first misdemeanor conviction, you’ll have to pay a thousand or more dollar fine to the courts.

If it’s your second, you’ll spend under a year in jail. Depending on the situation, your license will be revoked for a few months to a year. However, license revocation could be permanent. In all cases, your insurance rate will increase, and you’ll receive demerit points on your license.

What are the Penalties of a Felony Hit and Run?

As stated, you’ll only receive a felony hit and run charge if you committed a serious crime. In rare cases, the defendant may get a felony charge if they hit multiple objects or people without injuring them. Regardless, a felony charge will come with at least a year of prison time.

Even if the defendant is convicted of the crime, they still have to pay over a thousand dollars in fines. If the defendant is intoxicated or driving without insurance or a license, penalties increase. In almost all instances, the defendant will revoke their license for an extended period of time. 

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