A person convicted of a hit-and-run accident may undergo license suspension, jail time, fines, and other criminal charges. Drivers involved in accidents are typically legally obligated to stop, exchange information, and report the incident to law enforcement. (Learn more about what to do after facing a car accident

Please fulfill these obligations to avoid legal consequences. Hit-and-run incidents contribute to concerns about public safety, as drivers who flee the scene may pose ongoing risks to others on the road.

What Is a Hit-And-Run Accident?

A hit-and-run car accident occurs when a driver involved in a collision leaves the scene without stopping to exchange information or fulfill legal obligations. This includes providing contact details, such as name and insurance information, to the other parties involved or reporting the incident to law enforcement. Hit-and-run accidents can involve damage to property, vehicles, or injuries to individuals. 

Type of Penalties For Leaving The Scene of a Hit-and-Run Accident

Different types of penalties can be imposed for leaving the scene of a car accident. Some of them are as follows:

  • Criminal penalties

The criminal penalties for a hit and run can vary between states, with the offense categorized as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. Felony hit and run typically involves leaving the scene of an accident where any person, whether a pedestrian or a vehicle occupant, sustains injuries. 

The consequences for felony hit and run are substantial, often resulting in fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 and potential imprisonment of up to 15 years, contingent on the severity of the accident and resulting injuries.

It’s crucial to note that a hit and run may be classified as a misdemeanor, which, despite the term’s perception, carries significant penalties. Misdemeanors in most states can lead to substantial fines, reaching up to $5,000, and a potential jail sentence of up to one year, underscoring the seriousness of the offense. (Know more about whether Misdemeanor is a Criminal Offense)

  • Administrative penalties

In addition to the criminal repercussions, nearly every state enforces administrative penalties related to your driver’s license for a hit-and-run conviction. These penalties are typically administered through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Whether the hit-and-run offense is classified as a felony or misdemeanor, a conviction commonly triggers an automatic suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, lasting around six months or potentially up to three years in some states. 

Depending on the state and the specifics of the accident, the penalty may even extend to a lifetime revocation of your driver’s license. It’s crucial to recognize that these administrative penalties are separate from any criminal consequences that may be imposed for the hit-and-run offense.

  • Civil Penalties

Suppose you’re responsible for a car accident. In that case, you may face a lawsuit from the other party seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage (Get more information on what is property damage liability). This legal action is likely even without a hit and run, especially if you’re deemed at fault. 

However, if you’re liable for a hit and run in addition to causing the accident, the court may increase the damages you’re ordered to pay. Some states may impose punitive damages to punish particularly dangerous behavior like a hit-and-run.

Punitive damages aren’t meant to cover the injured party’s losses but to penalize extreme behavior. A hit and run could qualify for such damages. Additionally, treble damages, where the awarded amount is tripled, may apply under certain statutes. 

For instance, if a civil jury awards $10,000, a statute related to hit-and-run civil penalties might allow the judge to automatically triple that amount to $30,000 due to the especially reckless nature of the hit-and-run.

It’s crucial to note that car insurance policies typically do not cover punitive and treble damages, meaning you may have to pay these amounts out of your pocket.

Does a Hit-And-Run Accident Affect An Auto Insurance?

Yes, a hit-and-run accident can affect your car insurance. When you’re the victim of a hit-and-run and cannot identify the at-fault driver, you’ll typically file a claim under the uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage of your insurance policy.

This coverage protects you when the at-fault party is unidentified or lacks sufficient insurance. (Get detailed insights on What Happens If Accident Damage Exceeds Your Car Insurance?)

While filing a claim under your UM or UIM coverage shouldn’t directly impact your premium or lead to a surcharge, some insurance companies may consider a hit-and-run claim when determining renewal rates. You must check with your specific insurance provider to understand how they handle such claims and whether they can influence your rates.

Your car insurance premiums will likely be affected if you were at fault for a hit-and-run accident. Being deemed responsible for leaving the scene of an accident can result in higher premiums and the severity of the impact will depend on your insurance provider’s policies and the laws in your state. 

Always inform your insurance company promptly if you’re involved in a hit-and-run, whether as the victim or the at-fault party, to ensure proper handling of the situation.

Involved In a Hit-And-Run Case? Contact a lawyer

A personal injury lawyer can assist in a hit-and-run case by navigating legal complexities and helping victims pursue compensation through uninsured motorist claims. They also help to ensure the best possible outcome in both criminal and civil aspects of the case.

FAQs On Hit-And-Run Accident Cases

If you're involved in a hit-and-run accident, gather as much information as possible, including the other vehicle's license plate number, make, and model. Additionally, document the scene, take photos, and contact the police immediately to report the incident.
Coverage varies, but if you have uninsured motorist coverage, it may help cover costs associated with a hit-and-run accident. It's crucial to promptly report the incident to your insurance company and provide all available information.
If the hit-and-run driver is identified, you may have the option to pursue legal action against them for damages. Consult with a personal injury attorney to understand the legal options available in your specific situation.
In cases where the other driver cannot be identified, uninsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection (PIP) may help cover medical expenses and other damages. Consult with your insurance provider to understand your policy's terms.
Yes, it's crucial to contact the police even for minor hit-and-run incidents. A police report can be essential for insurance claims and potential legal actions. Provide as much detail as possible to aid in the investigation.