Every state requires drivers to stop at the scene of an accident to help others involved in the crash and exchange contact and insurance information. Drivers who don't stop can be criminally charged with hit-and-run driving and face a car accident lawsuit in civil court.
Hit-and-run accidents can involve two or more moving cars, but sometimes drivers flee after hitting pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, parked vehicles, and other property. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 2,500 people were killed by hit-and-run drivers in 2020, an increase of 26% from 2019.
In this article we'll cover:
Drivers are required by state law to stop following an accident. If anyone involved in the accident is injured, you need to provide whatever help you can, including calling 911 and the police.
You also need to give your name, address, phone number, and insurance information to:
If you are not the owner of the car you're driving, you need to share the car owner's information too. If you have to leave the scene to call for assistance, most states don't consider that to be a hit and run, as long as you come back to the scene right away.
Learn more about what to do after a car accident.
If the accident resulted in injuries or death, a fleeing driver will typically be charged with a felony. Hit-and-run accidents involving property damage will typically lead to misdemeanor charges. Both felony and misdemeanor charges can result in jail sentences and fines. Felony charges can lead to prison time.
Learn more about hit-and-run laws.
If you are at fault for a car accident, another person involved in the crash may sue you for the injuries and property damage you cause. You may be on the hook for damages (accident-related losses) like medical bills, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering. Most people rely on their auto liability insurance to cover damages, but some cases end up in court.
If you are legally responsible (liable) for a hit-and-run accident, a court may order you to pay punitive damages. Regular damages are awarded to compensate accident victims for their losses. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a hit-and-run driver's bad behavior. Even though nearly all car accidents are unintentional, hit-and-run driving is reckless and egregious because fleeing the scene is an intentional act.
If you've been injured in a hit and run, it's normal to want to track the driver down. You can only make hit-and-run drivers pay for their crimes and for damages if you find them. But no matter how eager you are to hold someone responsible, you should never chase a hit-and-run driver. It's dangerous. The best thing you can do is call the police for help.
If you can't find the driver, you'll probably have to rely on your own health and car insurance to cover some of your expenses. You may also be able to make an uninsured motorist claim if you have the coverage.
Learn more about your options if you're injured by a hit-and-run driver.
If you've fled the scene of your car accident, talk to a lawyer. A criminal defense attorney can help you come up with the best course of action and defend you in court if necessary.
If you have questions about a hit-and-run insurance claim or lawsuit, talk to a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can answer your questions and advocate for you. Here are tips on hiring and working with lawyers. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.