Hit and Run Accidents and the Consequences


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For those who have either been injured by a hit and run driver, or those who have lost a loved one, it is clear that hit and run accidents can turn an already unpleasant event into a truly horrible one. For those who caused the accident then fled the scene, usually in a panic, the consequences can be severe.

A hit and run accident occurs when a person involved in a traffic accident leaves the scene without stopping to exchange information or wait for the police to arrive. The legal definition and elements of a hit and run vary from state to state, as do the legal consequences. However, most states have laws specifying a driver's obligations after an accident and if those obligations are not met a high and run has occurred.

A hit and run accident may create injuries or death to people, but it can also damage property, even if other people are not involved. For example, the driver that runs over a sign, smashes a tree, or crushes a sprinkler system. Of course, damage to people is most often the result, and also the cause of the panic to the driver who flees the scene.

While traffic laws vary from state to state, in every jurisdiction one should always stop their vehicle after any accident. One should also exchange information with any other drivers, property owners, or victims affected by the accident. If the property owner is not available, you should attempt to identify them and provide your information to them as soon as possible. Additionally, you should contact local law enforcement and report the accident. In some jurisdictions failing to simply report the accident could be a crime in and or itself. Also, if someone has been injured, you should immediately see to their injuries. Many states require drivers of vehicles involved in a car accident to provide assistance to injured persons, or to at least summon emergency services. Indeed, in Florida, there is a duty to render reasonable assistance to any person injured in the car accident which may include taking the person to the hospital or other medical treatment center.

In every state, a hit and run can lead to criminal charges. Penalties may include not only incarceration, but also fines and suspensions or revocations of driver's licenses. If there is significant property damage, or if the accident results in injury or death, the incident could lead to felony charges punishable with more than a year in prison. When there is only minimal property damage, the offense will probably be considered a misdemeanor (punishable with less than a year in jail).

In addition to criminal penalties, a hit and run driver may face civil liability, as well. Civil penalties could include the victim's actual compensatory damages (getting compensation for all injuries and losses caused by the crash), as well as consequential damages (lost wages, loss of consortium, mental anguish), and quite possibly punitive damages (damages awarded to punish a wrongdoer).

As a result, if you have been the victim of a hit and run, your first call should be to the police, followed by a call to an appropriately qualified attorney. If you have caused a hit and run accident, you should also contact an attorney at once. Even if you have not yet been charged, an attorney will be able to advise you as to your legal obligations and how best to move forward to protect your interests and your assets.

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Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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