WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU LEAVE THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT?
Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime that can result in either a misdemeanor or a felony conviction, depending on the extent of the damage or injuries caused in the accident.
If you get an accident in Texas, here’s what you have to do:
- immediately stop or return to the scene of the accident; and
- stay long enough to exchange information with the driver.
If there’s not a driver, like in a situation where you hit a parked car, you have to leave a note with your information on it. If you don’t do those two things, then it’s a misdemeanor criminal offense in Texas. If there are injuries, you’re most likely looking at a felony.
Also, important to know if you leave the scene of an accident:
- Do not speak to the police without talking to an attorney first. Police can’t completely prove it was you behind the wheel that caused the accident unless you admit it. If you admit it, you may be arrested or cited.
- Do not call your car insurance and report the accident without speaking to the attorney first. Insurance companies will record calls and turn the evidence over to the police, and that evidence can be used against you in a criminal case.
If you stay on scene like you’re supposed to, and there’s no alcohol-related issues, the worst you’re looking at criminally is a Class C citation. Of course, civil liability for damages is a different story.
It’s important to keep your insurance information handy and take smart steps to get your car and the other party’s car fixed quickly.
WHAT IF I AM CITED, CAN I FIGHT THE TICKET?
If you are cited for a traffic violation related to an accident where you stayed at the scene, most commonly known as a failure to control speed or reckless driving ticket, you can fight that ticket in court! Instead of paying the ticket and ending up with a conviction, hire a traffic ticket attorney to help you. An attorney is not necessary, it just makes things easier because you won’t have to go to court to fight the ticket yourself.
Courts often dismiss accident tickets when your attorney submits proof of restitution (repayment for damages) or insurance coverage of the other party’s vehicle. Not always, but often.
Avoid those convictions!
WHAT IF THE POLICE SAY THEY KNOW WHO DID IT (HAVE VIDEO EVIDENCE) AND WANT TO CONFIRM IT WAS YOU?
They are most likely pulling a fast one on you if they say they have video evidence. Even if it existed, they usually act based on a witness license plate identification or vehicle registration information (if you fled the scene on foot), and wouldn’t have had time to get that kind of evidence against you. Red-light cameras are always low quality and can never positively identify a person. They want to get you to admit it so they can arrest you or cite you. And if that happens, your legal problems are much worse. Talk to an attorney first. She can run interference for you with the police.
WHAT ABOUT ACCIDENTS WHERE SOMEONE IS INJURED?
We all know that some accidents are more than just fender-benders. Texas law says that if you’re in an accident with an injury or death, in addition to the first two steps noted above, you also have to stop and reasonably render aid. That means calling the paramedics, doing CPR if you know it and you have to stay at the scene at least until the ambulance gets there.
If you don’t do that, and leave the scene, you’re facing up to a second-degree felony or 20 years in prison. If the injury is not serious, you can end up with up to 1 year in a county jail time (misdemeanor) or up to 5 years in prison (felony) and/or a fine up to $5,000.
HIT & RUN PENALTIES IN TEXAS:
Texas isn’t messing around. If you’re caught leaving the scene of an accident, here are your penalties if there’s no injury:
- Class C Misdemeanor: hit and run involving damage to an occupied vehicle; fine up to $500 if damages to all vehicles is less than $200.
- Class B Misdemeanor: 6 months in a county jail if the damage is more than $200.
- If found guilty, you can reasonably expect to receive community supervision (probation).
- A conviction also may result in the suspension of your driver’s license.
Stay safe, Texans!