Stay on the Scene
The biggest mistake you can make following a car accident — whether it was your fault or not — is leaving the scene. This mistake can result in criminal hit and run charges. You need to stay at the crash scene until you swap information with other drivers and until police say you can go.
Make Sure Everyone is Okay
First and foremost, make sure you’re okay after an accident. Then move onto your other passengers and the other drivers involved. If the crash injured anyone in the slightest, call 911. What initially looks like minor injuries can turn into something deadly if gone unchecked by medical professionals.
Call the Police
If you’ve already called 911 due to injuries, police will certainly be on the way along with an ambulance. However if you didn’t call 911, you need to call the police in order to report the accident. Additionally, police presence might be necessary if the other driver is intoxicated, uncooperative, or violent.
Make sure to exchange information with the other drivers involved in the accident, including:
Additionally, it’s important to document the name and badge number of the officer documenting your accident. That way you will know who to call if you have any questions in the future.
Whether the accident was your fault or not, it’s important to gather evidence to protect yourself from legal action. Make sure to:
Take several pictures of the accident scene
Write down the details of each car involved in the accident. Make sure to include a general description, the make and model, the year, and the license plate number
Document the exact crash details as soon as you can so that you can accurately defend yourself later
Take pictures of your injuries as well as your passenger’s injuries
If there are any traffic or security cameras nearby, remember their exact location and ask an officer where you could possibly get a copy of the footage
Be Mindful of What You Say
It’s natural to feel frazzled and scared after an accident. The amount of adrenaline coursing through your body can remove your filter, making you babble and apologize to everyone involved even if you don’t need to. Apologizing profusely and over explaining yourself can make you look like you’re at fault even if you’re not. Just remember that whatever you say at the scene can certainly be held against you later if you’re not careful. Even if you think the crash was your fault, don’t admit this to anyone at the scene. As police investigate the crash, they could uncover some piece of evidence that proves that you’re less at fault than the other driver.
Call Your Insurance Company
You need to report your accident to your insurance company as soon as possible, whether or not you’re at fault. If you wait too long to notify them, you could suffer the consequences of not receiving the best possible coverage. It’s also important to remember that calling your insurance company about your accident doesn’t mean you have to file a claim. If that’s something you’re thinking about doing, you should speak with your attorney about the pros and cons first.
Keep Records of Everything
In the weeks following your accident, keep careful records of all your medical bills, lost wages, and car repairs just in case some kind of lawsuit arises. You’ll need these records as evidence but to also establish what kind of compensation you deserve. Additionally, make sure to keep track of every conversation and decision you make with your attorney or insurance company.
What are the Consequences of a Hit and Run in Texas?
If you hit a car and then immediately leave the scene, you could suffer major consequences depending on which state the accident happened in. More specifically, you could suffer criminal, administrative, and civil penalties for a hit and run.
If you leave the scene of a crash that resulted in serious injury or death in Texas, you could face a third degree felony that could lock you up for two to ten years. If you leave the scene of a crash that resulted in a minor injury, you could face one to five years in jail or a $5,000 fine.
Leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in a damaged occupied car is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. If the car damages cost less than $200, you will likely face a $500 fine. Car damage that costs more than $200 is a Class B misdemeanor which could result in a six month jail sentence.
Alongside possible jail time and a large fine, the DMV could temporarily suspend your driver’s license. Every state will have different rules when it comes to driver’s license suspension. However, most state DMV’s will suspend a hit and run driver’s license for approximately six months. But depending on the severity of the hit and run and the state you live in, the DMV could suspend your license for your entire lifetime. Generally, DMVs reserve that penalty for very severe and deadly hit and runs.
If you’re at fault for the hit and run, the other driver(s) may sue you for their injuries, lost wages, and more. If they do, the lawsuit will likely request compensation for everything they lost due to the accident. As a result, the hit and run victim may receive economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages basically cover all monetary losses that the hit and run victim suffered as a result of the crash. Common losses due to a car accident include:
All medical bills, including future ones
Physical therapy and rehabilitation after the accident
Loss of earning potential
Non-economic damages basically compensate hit and run victims for losses that don’t have a set monetary value. Common examples of non-economic damages due to a car accident include:
Pain and suffering
Mental anguish including anxiety, depression, PTSD, sleep loss, etc.
Loss of enjoyment of life
Loss of consortium
If you’re charged with a hit and run on top of being at fault for the accident, you will likely have to pay punitive damages as well. Punitive damages generally exist to punish the hit and run driver, not to further compensate the victim. Insurance companies certainly don’t cover punitive damages, so you would have to pay the victim with your own money.
What Should I Do if I Accidentally Hit a Car and No One is Around?
Maybe you accidentally hit an empty car in a store parking lot and you can’t find the driver. In situations like this, you must leave a note on the car with your basic information: name, number, and driver’s license number. You should also report the accident to local police as soon as possible. If you do these things, you won’t face hit and run charges. You should do the same thing if you hit and damage someone’s property.
Possible Hit and Run Defenses
If you are facing a hit and run charge, it’s crucial for you to have an experienced hit and run attorney on your side because they can formulate a solid defense. As a result, your penalties may be less severe. Three common defenses that a hit and run attorney may utilize are involuntary intoxication, responding to an emergency, and lack of knowledge.
If this defense is applicable to your situation, your hit and run attorney will argue that you were somehow drugged against your will and that you got in an accident while driving home or to the doctor. Your hit and run attorney will also argue that you didn’t stay at the accident scene because you were in an altered state of mind. However, if there isn’t enough solid evidence to back up this claim, your attorney won’t use it.
Responding to an Emergency
Let’s say you got into an accident and immediately left the scene because you were frantically driving to the hospital for some kind of emergency. If that’s the case, your attorney will gather enough evidence to prove this claim and hopefully reduce the severity of your penalties.
Lack of Knowledge
Your hit and run attorney can use this last defense if you hit something and quickly left because you thought that there weren’t any injuries or property damage. Or maybe you didn’t know that you hit someone or something and you drove off. This defense can be a tough one to use effectively because most people know if they’ve hit someone or something. Additionally, you can’t know for sure if you hurt someone or damaged something until you get out of your car and check.
Call a Hit and Run Attorney at Reich & Binstock Today
Whether you’re suffering from injuries following a hit and run or you’re facing a hit and run charge, attorneys at Reich & Binstock want to represent you. We will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today at 713-622-7271 for a free consultation.