A car accident can be a very frightening occurrence, for anyone and there could be a lot of confusing immediately after that. It would be a natural response for anyone to have the urge to run to safety. It gets a lot worse if as the driver, you cause injury to another person, you have no car insurance, you are under intoxication or have a suspended license. The urge to get as far away from the scene as possible can be overwhelming.
However, as tempting as it might, running away from a car accident only makes you a hit-and-run offender, which is a very serious crime. Under Texas law, failing to render aid or give information is considered a crime. Texas law required any person involved in a car accident to stop the car if there is personal injury, death or property injury, regardless of how minor it is. The charges of a hit-and-run could be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the accident.
Are there any exceptions to the law?
There are a few exceptions like the fact that in order to commit the crime, a person must know that actually were involved in an accident. While it may seem that an accident might be obvious, at times it is not. A person might mistake hitting a bump with a pothole. Owners of large vehicles like trucks might not notice a jolt from such a minor accident. If you were not aware of the accident, you will need to ask for evidence and you will need a competent defense attorney by your side.
What you should do when charged with a hit-and-run
If you were aware of the accident but panicked and left and the police arrest you, there are some things you can do to avoid criminal charges, unfair prosecution, insurance and financial issues. First of all, do not offer the police information without an attorney present because even though the police might know it was your car in the accident, they might not have a way to prove it was you behind the wheel. You should also not call the insurance company because they will record the call and report it to the police. Do it after you get advice from your attorney.
What exactly are your legal responsibilities after an accident?
· If the accident involves injury or death, you must stop immediately to render aid to the injured, provide your personal information and provide the driver’s license on request.
· If the accident involves damage to an occupied car, stop, render aid, provide information and show your license on request.
· If the car accident involves an attended car, you must stop, locate the owner and provide them with the information. If you do not find them, leave them a note providing information on the crash.
· If the accident involves landscaping or highway fixtures, stop to find the person responsible for the property, provide them with personal information and your license on request. If the damages exceed $1,000, you must file a report with the law enforcement.
Do not be afraid to stop because you think you will be sued, Texas law states that any statements you make when filing a report can’t be used in a civil suit.
Hit and run criminal charges and penalties
· If you leave a scene that involves serious injury or death, you will face a third degree felony, which is punishable by 2-10 years in state prison. If the injury is mild, you will face up to 5 years in prison or pay a fine of $5,000.
· If you leave a scene that involves damages to an occupied car, it will be a Class C Misdemeanor with a $500 fine if the damages amount to less than $200. If more than $200, you face a Class B Misdemeanor with up to 6 months in prison. This also applies to unattended car or fixtures and landscaping if you do not stop and report.
Penalties for a hit-and-run conviction
· In Texas, if you are found guilty, you can expect a hit-and-run case, probation or community services if it was your first offence, you do not have a previous conviction to a felony and no one was injured or dead. Otherwise, you will spend time in jail.
· If convicted, your license might be suspended and more so if there was death involved.
How you can avoid this
Hiring a competent defense attorney in Texas will be the best thing you can do for your car accident charges. The earlier you involve a legal representative into it the higher the chances of winning the case or at least coming out with minor charges.