Hit and Run Accidents: Everything You Need to Know
There were 128,172 vehicle crashes in Virginia in 2019, leaving 65,708 people injured and killing more than 800 people.
When a car accident occurs, it is the duty of all parties involved to remain at the scene until contact information has been exchanged and law enforcement has arrived. Each person is also responsible for providing reasonable assistance to anyone who might have been injured. For people who don’t remain at the scene of an accident, there can be serious consequences.
Virginia Hit and Run Laws
In the state of Virginia, a hit and run is considered a criminal offense. An individual commits a hit and run when they leave an accident scene without giving their information to the other party involved in the accident. If the vehicle damage from the hit and run is less than $1,000 then this is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense. If the damage is more than $1,000 or if there were injuries from the accident, then it is charged as a felony.
When you leave the scene of an accident unlawfully, the penalties you receive can include fines, restitution, and incarceration. When someone hits a parked vehicle or unattended property and leaves the scene, it’s considered a misdemeanor. This conviction can leave you with a $2,500 fine, restitution, and up to one year in jail. When you damage property in a hit-and-run collision of a parked vehicle or property worth more than $500, you can also have your license suspended for up to six months.
What Constitutes a Hit and Run Charge
All Virginia drivers are required by the law to stop at the scene of an accident that they are involved in. The party responsible for the accident does not matter. The laws require both drivers to exchange contact information, including their name, driver’s license number, address, and vehicle registration information. It is also required that drivers reasonably assist anyone who was injured in the accident. If you leave an accident that you are involved in without performing these duties, then you can be charged with a hit and run.
Type of Offenses That Accompany a Hit and Run Charge
It is a serious offense to get into a car accident and leave the scene. The criminal charges that can accompany a hit-and-run accident vary in severity depending on the circumstances.
Class 5 Felony
These are the most serious hit-and-run charges. These can be brought if there was a wrongful death, injury, or more than $1,000 in damage to property to an attended vehicle. For this crime, you can receive up to 10 years of jail time in addition to fines.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
There are two different scenarios that can lead to a class 1 misdemeanor for a hit and run. The first is if there was less than $1,000 in property damage to an attended vehicle or property. The second is if the property damage was between $250 and $1,000 when the vehicle or property was unattended. For this level of crime, the driver can spend up to one year in jail. Passengers are also culpable if they do not report an accident. In these instances, the passengers can receive the same punishment as the drivers for leaving the scene and failing to report it.
Class 4 Misdemeanor
A driver convicted of a class 4 misdemeanor hit and run will have a criminal conviction on their record and will pay a fine. This charge is brought if the property damage was valued at less than $250 and if the vehicle or property was unattended. In these instances, passengers who don’t report an accident can be punished exactly the same as the driver.
How a Lawyer Can Help You with a Hit and Run Charge
If you got into an accident and you fled the scene without exchanging information with the other drivers or providing reasonable assistance to injured parties, the next thing you should do is consult with an attorney before you do anything else. You can end up making the situation worse if you make more mistakes trying to resolve the situation on your own without legal counsel.
A hit and run can be a serious wreck or a minor accident. Either way, it is a crime that the state of Virginia does not take lightly. Drivers might leave the scene of a hit and run for several reasons, including:
- Driving under the influence
- Believing there was only minimal damage
- Fear of points against their license
- Fear of receiving higher insurance premiums
If you left the scene of an accident, you might be tempted to make things right and go to the police station. However, it can be a big mistake to admit fault here. The police typically are obligated to refer the case to the prosecutor’s office, and you end up losing any negotiating power you might have had. Instead, you will want to first consult with an experienced attorney. They will help you negotiate for a favorable outcome and advise you through the process.
What To Do If No One Catches a Hit and Run Driver
If you have been the victim of a hit and run, the first thing you will want to do is file a police report. However, these cases aren’t always a priority for police departments if no one was killed or injured in the accident. You can work to gather evidence on your own if you feel that no one is working to catch the hit-and-run driver. First, you can talk to witnesses and ask them if they have any information about the other vehicle or driver involved. You can also knock on doors nearby and ask people if they saw anything and ask if they have security cameras. Similarly, nearby businesses might have surveillance camera footage.
Damages During a Hit And Run Case
Hit and run accidents can leave the person charged with significant criminal and civil consequences. In fact, the consequences are more severe than those of a normal traffic accident. Beyond criminal penalties, hit and run drivers can be sued in a civil lawsuit where they can owe the plaintiff punitive damages. They will usually be able to recover damages if the defendant recklessly or intentionally caused harm or acted in an egregious manner.
An individual can receive compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and more. The amount owed must be proportionate to the harm that was caused. Punitive damages can also be recovered because it is seen as the legal responsibility of all drivers to remain at the scene of an accident. Under some circumstances the victim may be entitled to punitive damages as well.
Can You Sue a Hit and Run Driver?
Yes, you can sue a hit-and-run driver in a civil suit. To do so successfully, you will want to hire a hit and run attorney that can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Common Defenses to Hit and Run Drivers
In hit-and-run cases, there are several common defenses used by hit-and-run lawyers. The three most common include:
- Lack of knowledge or unaware of an injury
- Fled the scene in response to an emergency
A hit-and-run lawyer will help you build a defense that gives you the best chance of the least harmful outcome.
Hit and Run Accidents: We’re Here to Help Handle All Your Legal Needs
Getting into a car accident is always shocking and stressful, even if it was the smallest of fender benders. No matter which side of a hit and run accident you’re on, we’re here to help you protect your rights. Are you looking for legal advice after a hit and run in Virginia? Contact The Decker Law Firm today.