Hit-and-run accidents are not simple matters that can be resolved by merely filing an insurance claim. For a driver who is involved in a car accident and then leaves the scene without providing his or her information, the hit-and-run can result in serious criminal charges – most often: failure to stop and give information. Depending on the level of damage caused and the seriousness of the injuries incurred by those involved, a driver who causes an accident and then flees the scene can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
In Houston, it is a criminal offense to flee the scene of an accident, even when a person has a compelling reason for doing so. The compelling reason can be used as a defense to the failure to stop and give information and the failure to stop and render aid charges that usually result from this type of behavior.
For example, a driver who is afraid to stop after causing an accident because he believes that the other driver is likely to cause him physical harm may still be arrested for failing to stop, but could claim the fear for his own safety as a defense. This is especially true if the driver called the police after getting to a safe location after the accident.
When the accident results in property damage alone, drivers are allowed to move their cars to an accident investigation site if the cars can be driven to the sites safely. Similarly, if there is only damage to the vehicles, the driver does not necessarily have to stop at the site of the accident, and can return to the scene as soon as it is possible to do so. This may happen when stopping the car at the scene of the accident would result in blocking traffic and creating the danger of additional accidents.
Providing Information and Failure to Stop
The kind of information a driver is required to give after an accident includes name and address, the car’s registration number, and insurance information. This information should be provided to anyone involved in or injured in the accident. The driver who caused the accident may also be required to show his or her driver’s license to law enforcement officers.
If a person is seriously injured in an accident, the driver who caused the accident has an additional duty to either give assistance, or ensure that medical assistance is provided by calling 911.
When the accident results in death or the other driver or passengers sustain serious injuries, the penalties for failing to stop and give information increase, and the fleeing driver can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Depending on how the accident occurred, the driver may also face additional criminal charges that could lead to the possibility of more prison time.
In addition to the criminal charges that a driver may face, there may also be civil penalties if the other person injured in the accident decides to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Get Help with Failure to Stop Charges
If you were involved in a car accident and left the scene of the accident, or you have been arrested for failing to stop after a car accident to give your information, you need a Houston criminal defense lawyer with experience handling failure to stop cases. Contact the Haggard Law Firm today at (832) 328-0600 or use the short email form for a free confidential consultation.