Accidents are scary. Maybe you caused a car accident and whether out of fear, confusion or guilt, you fled. You rationalized leaving perhaps because you were driving without a valid license, were texting or drinking while driving. Maybe you didn’t have insurance or had an outstanding warrant for your arrest. You figured if you fled the scene that you would avoid legal ramifications.
Vehicular hit and run is a criminal offense. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one hit-and-run crashes occur every minute on American roads. More people than ever are turning a blind eye to causing car crashes. However, while leaving the scene of an accident may seem tempting, doing so can often lead to heightened consequences.
What drivers should know about hit and run accidents
So, what is a hit and run accident? New Jersey law mandates that the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident that causes personal injury or property damage is required to stay at the scene of the crash. Depending on the details of the accident, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges. If you cause physical injury, the hit and run can be charged as a felony.
Other penalties after a hit and run accident that caused an injury may include:
- Steep fines up to $5,000
- Jail time up to 180 days
- The temporary loss of your driving privileges
- The potential for increased auto insurance premiums
If this is a second or third offense, the penalties can become even more significant.
Is it a hit and run accident if you hit another car, resulting in a barely noticeable ding, and leave without notice? Yes. You may need to file a police report, depending on the extent of the damage. Additionally, take photos of the damage, record the license plate number and leave a note on the car with your information.
Leaving the scene of the crime results in negative aftermath and makes a bad situation worse.
If you panicked into “flight mode” and abandoned the accident, taking responsibility and turning yourself in may minimize the consequences you face. Conceivably, there may be an investigation including interviews with eyewitnesses, review of surveillance footage and assessment of physical evidence.
If you cause a vehicular accident — no matter how minor — staying at the scene, even if you think you’re not at fault, can be in your best interest.