Leaving the scene of an accident, known as a hit-and-run, is a serious offense with severe legal implications. It is crucial to understand the consequences of such actions to make informed decisions in the event of an accident. This article aims to provide comprehensive information about what happens when you leave the scene of an accident and the potential legal repercussions involved.
I. Legal Obligations Following an Accident:
Under Pennsylvania law, when involved in a car accident, whether it be with another vehicle, a pedestrian, or property, it is essential to fulfill the following legal duties:
1. Stop Your Vehicle: Following an accident, it is mandatory for all drivers involved to stop their vehicle at the scene or as close as possible without impeding the flow of traffic.
2. Information Exchange: Drivers must promptly provide their name, address, vehicle registration number, and insurance information to the other parties involved in the accident.
3. Rendering Aid: In cases where injuries are sustained, drivers are mandated to offer reasonable assistance, which might involve calling for medical aid or ensuring the transportation of the injured person to receive essential medical attention.
II. The Definition of Hit-and-Run:
The term "hit-and-run" refers to the act of a driver involved in a collision departing from the accident scene without fulfilling their legal responsibilities. This includes leaving the scene without exchanging information or failing to provide reasonable assistance to an injured individual.
III. Consequences of Departing the Accident Scene:
Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense in Pennsylvania that carries both criminal and civil consequences:
- Criminal Penalties: The act of leaving the scene of an accident is considered a criminal offense. The severity of the penalties depends on the specifics of the accident. If there are no injuries, leaving the scene is a misdemeanor, which carries fines and a potential license suspension. However, if the accident results in catastrophic injury or wrongful death, it becomes a felony offense, resulting in higher fines and potential imprisonment.
- License Suspension: Many states have laws that mandate a driver's license suspension or revocation for individuals convicted of a hit-and-run offense. The length of the suspension can vary based on the jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the accident. In NJ, a first offense hit-and-run conviction carries a mandatory maximum 30-day license suspension.
- Civil Liability: In addition to criminal charges, individuals who leave the scene of an accident may also face civil liability. Victims of hit-and-run accidents retain the option to seek compensation via personal injury lawsuits, covering medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and intangible suffering. Non-compliance with the duty to remain at the scene may prompt insurance companies to deny coverage, leading to substantial financial ramifications.
IV. Legal Defenses and Mitigating Factors:
While leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense, there may be legal defenses or mitigating factors that might potentially reduce the severity of the consequences. Some common factors that may influence the outcome include:
1. Lack of Knowledge: If the driver genuinely had no knowledge that an accident had occurred, they may be able to argue that they had no intent to leave the scene. However, this defense is highly dependent on the circumstances and requires strong evidence.
2. Fear or Coercion: In select instances, a driver might flee the scene of an accident out of fear or duress due to threats or coercion from another party involved. These factors may be considered by the court during legal proceedings.
V. Seek Legal Assistance:
If you have been involved in a hit-and-run accident, it is crucial to seek legal assistance promptly. Navigating the legal complexities surrounding these cases can be challenging without proper legal representation. When facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident, it is crucial to consult with a skilled attorney who can evaluate the circumstances and build a strong criminal defense strategy.
Contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim Today for a Free Consultation About Your Criminal Defense
Have you left the scene of an accident in Pennsylvania? Facing the consequences of a hit-and-run can be daunting, but you don't have to face it alone. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we understand the complexities surrounding hit-and-run cases. We specialize in criminal defense and Pennsylvania traffic law and are here to fight for your rights and protect your future. We will explore every avenue to build a solid defense strategy tailored to your specific situation. Our goal is to guide you through the legal process, ensuring you understand your rights and options every step of the way.
Don't let a hit-and-run incident define your future. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we will fight relentlessly to protect your rights, mitigate the charges you face, and help you move forward with confidence. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation. Let us help you navigate the complex legal landscape and achieve the best possible resolution for your case.