After an accident, you have certain moral and legal obligations that you must honor if you don't want to face stiff penalties. In most states, you have to remain on the scene after an accident to figure out if anyone was hurt, assess property damage, and exchange insurance information. If someone is hurt, you are legally obligated to call for help if you are able to do so. Failure to do any of these things can result in you being labeled as a hit-and-run driver. If you are considered a hit-and-run driver, you may face the following consequences.
If you leave the scene of an accident, you can be charged criminally. The charge can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the circumstances involved. For example, if you kill or severely injure someone, you will face greater penalties than if you only caused minor property damage. You may also face lighter consequences if you lightly clipped a parked car and were unaware of the accident.
If you unknowingly leave the scene of an accident, you may not be charged at all. However, if you leave because you were under the influence of an illegal substance and someone was hurt, you may be charged to the fullest extent of the law. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment. You may also face the loss of your driving privileges or probation.
When you're the at-fault driver in an accident, you generally have to pay for certain damages, such as property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. These are called compensatory damages. The monetary award for these damages can be no greater than the actual damages themselves. For example, if you cause $2,000 in property damage, you cannot be sued for $3,000 in property damage.
When you leave the scene of an accident, however, you can also be sued for punitive damages. These are only sought when the at-fault party intentionally or recklessly causes harm. Punitive damages are not equal to actual damages; they are calculated based on your behavior and your financial standing. The amount of damage involved is also taken into account. As you can imagine, paying for punitive damages can get quite costly, especially if you have some financial means.
You should always stick around after an accident, even a minor one. It only takes a few minutes to make sure everyone is OK and exchange insurance information. If you leave the scene, you could feel the consequences for a very long time.
If you find that you need an auto accident attorney for your case, contact a professional from a company like Powers Law.