It’s important to call an accident attorney in Corpus Christi if you are involved in a hit-and-run. These accidents are often more complicated than others, and seeking legal representation will help protect your rights and ability to recover compensation.
Hit and run accidents are, to say the least, surprising. You may be driving along, enjoying the scenery, and the next moment your heart jumps, and adrenaline spreads through your body as another vehicle hits you. In the few minutes you take to collect your thoughts, the at-fault party has sped away. Now what?
In Texas, leaving the scene of an accident can be a serious criminal charge. Depending on the situation, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Consequences for a conviction include significant fines and time in jail.
All Drivers Have the Legal Responsibility for the Safety of Others on the Road
According to the Texas Transportation Code, drivers must take certain steps if they are involved in or cause an accident resulting in an injury or property damage. To avoid criminal charges related to leaving an accident scene, drivers should do the following:
Help Anyone with an Injury
Accidents involving death or injuries require the other driver to stay at the scene and help those who are injured. They must also provide their personal information to the other party involved in the accident.
If a driver leaves the scene of an accident without offering help, they may be charged with a third-degree felony. In Texas, being convicted of a third-degree felony comes with penalties of two to 10 years behind bars. The charge will likely be a felony for minor injuries, and a conviction can result in consequences of up to five years in a state prison or one year in county jail. Fines may also be ordered for up to $5,000.
Share Your Personal Information
If the accident causes damage to a vehicle with people inside, the driver must stop close to the vehicle they hit but ensure traffic is not blocked. Provide assistance and give the other party your personal information. If requested, you must present your driver’s license.
Leaving the scene without offering help to an occupied vehicle can be charged as a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. Fines for a conviction are up to $500. If the damage to all involved vehicles is under $200, you may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which comes with a penalty of up to six months in county jail. This same punishment applies to someone who damages landscaping or fixtures or hits an unoccupied vehicle and does not report it.
Leave a Note
If someone is in an accident that involves an unoccupied vehicle, the driver is required to stop and find the driver if possible. When the driver can’t be found, the driver that collided with the unoccupied vehicle must leave a note in an obvious location that provides their information and details.
Report Damage to an Authority
If a driver causes damage to highway landscaping or other fixtures, they must take “reasonable steps” to find an authority to report the damage. You also need to provide your contact information. If the damage is estimated to be more than $1,000, the driver must file a report with a local law enforcement officer.
If you fail to comply with the requirements mentioned above, this may result in the driver being arrested for hit and run. Some are worried about what they say when they file a report; however, in Texas, there are specific laws about this. Only certain statements from a driver can be used if a civil suit is filed. This provides some level of protection.
Unfortunately, even though there are requirements for drivers who cause an accident not to leave the scene, it happens.
What Should You Do if Someone Leaves the Scene of an Accident?
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident, the first thing you should do is stay calm and make sure everyone in your vehicle is okay. Texas laws require that drivers (all drivers involved) remain at the accident scene and contact the authorities.
Staying at the scene is not only the law, but it ensures that you have an official report to provide to your insurance company. If anyone is injured, provide first aid if you are able and wait for first responders to arrive. It’s important to move your vehicle off the road and get somewhere safe if you can.
In most cases, you would give your information to the other driver involved. However, you will give it to the authorities since they left the scene. While you are waiting for them to arrive, be sure to collect evidence at the scene.
Most people have paper in their vehicle to write down facts and details about the accident. If you don’t, store notes on your phone. Try to write down things like the weather conditions, where the accident occurred, damage to your vehicle, injuries, and anything else that may be relevant to the situation. Use your phone to take photos of the accident scene, too. It’s always better to have too much evidence than not enough.
Look around for witnesses, too. Ask them for their contact information and what they saw. Any details they can give you about the vehicle that fled can be helpful.
When it comes to hit-and-run accidents, you need to get creative so you have a better chance of helping the police find them. Some of the identifying information to try to remember includes:
- What type of vehicle was it?
- What color was the vehicle?
- Can you remember any of the license plate numbers?
- Were there any recognizable bumper stickers?
- Was it an old or new model vehicle?
- Did the accident occur near stores with surveillance cameras?
- If the other vehicle was speeding, ask the responding officers if there were red light cameras in the area.
After you have spoken to the authorities, call your own auto insurance company. You will want to file a claim with them. While you did not get the insurance information from the other driver, you may have underinsurance coverage. In fact, that’s exactly what underinsurance is designed for. Talk to your insurance company to see if this is included in your policy.
When you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident and did not get information from the at-fault driver, the injured driver must rely on their own insurance company for the money needed to cover their medical costs. Unfortunately, this is a situation that occurs much more than people realize. Another time it may be necessary to turn to your own insurance coverage is if someone doesn’t have enough coverage.
Reasons a Driver May Leave the Scene of an Accident
Many drivers flee the scene after hitting someone due to financial liability concerns and fear of criminal charges. Drivers are often fearful of the repercussions that occur after an accident. Some of the situations where this may be the case include:
- The individual didn’t have permission to drive the vehicle they were in.
- The individual was drunk.
- The individual didn’t have a valid driver’s license.
- The individual was under the influence of illegal drugs.
Usually, there’s no way for you to know why the driver left until the authorities conduct a full investigation after the accident.
Taking Steps to Protect Your Financial Recovery After a Hit and Run
If the authorities can find the at-fault driver in your accident, they may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony (as mentioned above). When the person is found, it can result in a huge fine and jail time. However, the criminal charges the at-fault driver may face will not impact your ability to recover compensation.
You can recover compensation when the person is found by hiring an accident attorney Texas from The Burkett Law Firm. They can help you with the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit. Some of the ways you can recover compensation in a hit-and-run accident include:
- The at-fault driver if they are found.
- The at-fault driver’s insurance provider if they are found and have valid insurance.
- Your auto insurance policy if you have uninsured motorist coverage and the at-fault driver is never found or doesn’t have insurance.
At The Burkett Law Firm, we are here to provide you the assistance you need if you are involved and injured in a hit-and-run accident. When you work with our personal injury lawyers, you will quickly discover that we will work on your behalf to help you recover the compensation needed to cover your damages and related medical costs. Contact us for more information.