Can I Get a Ticket for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
Leaving the scene of an accident is known as a hit-and-run. Not only can you get a ticket for leaving the scene, but depending on the circumstances, you might face considerable fines and possible jail time.
Whether or not you were responsible for the accident does not matter. Even if the accident was completely the fault of a negligent driver, you must stay at the scene until the police arrive. Under California law, if a driver leaves before exchanging contact and insurance information with the other driver involved, that is considered a hit-and-run, even if they stopped to talk to the other driver. This definition of hit-and-run applies to minor accidents, or “fender benders.”
In most cases, a driver is considered to have left the scene of an accident if they leave prior to law enforcement arrival. The exception is if the driver leaves the scene to take themselves or a passenger to the emergency room. Even under such conditions, the individual should try to leave contact information with the other driver.
Some people may panic after a collision, but that is not an excuse for leaving the scene. Neither is the incorrect belief that those who are not liable for the accident do not have to stay put.
If the other driver was responsible for the crash but you left the scene, this can harm your claim with the insurance company. A Los Angeles car accident lawyer at Ellis Injury Law can negotiate with your insurance company so that you might still receive compensation.
In California, a hit-and-run is charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony. The former involves an accident in which only property worth under a certain threshold was damaged. The latter, however, concerns crashes in which someone was killed or injured. In cases where a person was injured, whether the prosecutor decides to charge the driver with a felony or misdemeanor depends on injury severity and other factors.
Even in a misdemeanor case, the person convicted faces between 90 days and one year in jail. A felony conviction could mean between 16 months and four years in prison. In either case, the driver faces up to $10,000 in fines, along with court fees and victim restitution. A felony conviction results in the loss of the driver’s license for at least six months.
In addition, the car insurance company will raise the premiums, if it does not cancel coverage altogether.
Leaving the scene defenses
An attorney may raise potential defenses for clients charged with leaving the scene of an accident. For example, there are situations in which the driver was unaware that they had hit another vehicle. That is especially true when the driver of a large vehicle, such as a big rig, hits a much smaller vehicle and remains unaware of the collision.
The driver might leave the scene of the accident if threatened by the other driver or occupants of the other vehicle. In such instances, there is a good argument that the driver left for his or her own safety.
Perhaps the driver tried to call the police but discovered they could not get a signal on their cellphone. If the driver left the area to make the call but then returned, that is a strong defense. Of course, the driver must have proof via cellphone records that such a call was made.
Parking lot collisions
Accidents do not only occur on public roadways. Many minor accidents happen in parking lots, when a moving vehicle backs into or otherwise dents a stationary one. The driver who hits the other car must leave their contact information under the windshield of the vehicle. Failure to do that and then driving away is considered leaving the scene. Since most parking lots have surveillance cameras, it is likely that owner of the dented car or their insurance company will identify the driver at fault.
Reach out to a Los Angeles car accident lawyer
If you were involved in a hit-and-run accident, you need immediate legal help. Contact the experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyers at Ellis Injury Law today. Use our online contact form or call or text us 24/7 for a free consultation. We will evaluate your case and advise you of your options.