It depends on the accident and what state the crash took place in whether a hit and run is a felony or a misdemeanor. Generally, if a hit and run only causes property damage, it is considered a misdemeanor. If someone fled the scene of a crash that caused injury or death to another person, their hit and run is charged as a felony.
States like California have separate auto accident laws to decide whether a hit and run is a felony or a misdemeanor. Charges may increase if the defendant was driving under the influence or caused severe bodily injury due to the crash.
If you were involved in a hit and run and you feel you have enough evidence to file a claim, connect with our network of auto accident attorneys. We will make sure you find a lawyer who can accurately represent your case. Auto laws vary state-by-state, so you need an attorney who knows the laws in your area to accurately represent you.
What is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run is when either party involved in a car accident leaves the scene without exchanging info or rendering aid when necessary. All states require you to remain at the scene of the crash when safe to do so. Here is an example of Maine car accident law requiring drivers to stop and render aid during a crash:
The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in damage to an attended vehicle shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or stop as close as possible and immediately return to the scene.
Examples of required info to be exchanged between drivers are:
- Name and address
- Vehicle registration number
- Driver’s license when requested
- Liability insurance if states require auto coverage
- License plate
Exiting the scene to contact emergency services isn’t considered a hit and run in most states if you immediately return. Hit and run laws often extend to accidents involving parked vehicles. The person who hit the parked car should leave a note on the windshield with their info to avoid a hit and run charge.
South Carolina laws detail this process below:
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to fixtures legally upon or adjacent to a highway shall take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of such property of such fact and of his name and address and of the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall upon request and if available exhibit his driver’s license and shall make report of such accident when and as required in Section 56-5-1270.
Criminal Penalties for Hit and Runs
Causing a car accident and leaving the scene will dramatically increase the guilty party’s liability towards the crash. Penalties can reach thousands of dollars in fines and multiple years of imprisonment.
When a Hit and Run is a Misdemeanor
Hit and runs involving property damage carry less penalties than those involving bodily injury or death. Penalty amounts vary from state-to-state, but most misdemeanor hit and runs follow the following consequences:
- Around $1,000 in fines
- Six months to one year in jail time
When a Hit and Run is a Felony
Felonies carry heavier consequences, with fines running up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison for some states. A hit and run is only a felony if it causes serious injury or a fatality.
The criminal penalties for a hit and run depend on the state. For example, Colorado car accident law has the following rules for serious injury and fatalities after a hit and run.
Hit and runs that cause serious injury are considered class 4 felonies by Colorado and include the following penalties outlined by Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401:
- $2,000 to $500,000 in fines or
- Two to six years of imprisonment
Hit and runs that cause fatalities from their injuries are class 3 felonies that consist of the following criminal penalties:
- $3,000 to $750,000 in fines or
- 4 to 12 years imprisonment
Colorado’s penalties for fatal and non-fatal hit and runs are incredibly different from each other, but each state has different ways they handle hit and run accidents. Find an attorney who knows car accident law for your state to file your claim.
How Common Are Hit and Run Accidents?
Hit and runs are more common than one would expect. A study done by AAA concluded that a hit and run accident occurs every 43 seconds in the United States. The same study found that hit and run fatalities have been increasing on-average by 7.2% every year since 2009.
Solving a hit and run case is difficult without proper evidence from a dashcam or other methods of gathering photos or video footage. In 2017, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that they only identified a suspect 8% of the time.
If you want to file a hit and run claim with an attorney, gather enough evidence to identify the driver. A dashcam can make the difference between an unsolved case and a hit and run settlement worth thousands. Take a photo of their license plate or memorize their last three digits along with the make and model of their car.
How a Hit and Run Affects Auto Insurance
If someone was caught doing a hit and run, the DMV of their state may issue the following penalties to their driving record:
- Drivers license suspension from three months to three years
- Drivers license revocation
Their auto insurance company may also raise their rates if convicted for a hit and run. The insurance company may cancel their policy altogether.
Civil Penalties for Hit and Runs
If you were hit by another vehicle and they fled the scene, not only will they face the consequences above, but you can also sue them for damages.
Not only will they pay for your economic and non-economic damages caused by the accident, but their payments will surely increase due to them fleeing the scene. Examples of economic damages they may have to pay include:
- Unpaid medical bills
- Damage to your vehicle
- Lost wages and employment
Possible instances of non-economic damages include:
Connect With an Auto Accident Lawyer for Hit and Run Accidents
If you’re a victim of a hit and run and desire justice for your undeserved injuries, connect with LegalASAP. We have a network of 500+ law firms across the United States ready to assist you for no upfront costs until you win.
Make them take responsibility for your losses, and start by calling 888-927-3080 or filling out the short evaluation form below:
Jan Reburiano is a content writer and SEO specialist for law firms focusing on personal injury, disability, employment law, among other practices. He has written and edited numerous articles and created commercial spots for broadcasters that you can find in his LinkedIn. Jan currently lives in Los Angeles, California while writing for clients from around the United States.