Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Understand Your Responsibility

leaving the scene of an accident

Every year, 20-50 million people are injured in car accidents across the world. And that’s not even counting the 1.25 million who die in car accidents every year.

Believe it or not, many of those people end up leaving the scene of an accident. This happens when a driver experiences fear or anxiety. Because they don’t know what to do at the moment, they panic and flee the scene.

In a European study conducted to understand the psychology behind fleeing, 42% of the offenders in the study were under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Despite it being a common offense, it’s also a serious one. And if you do feel the scene of an accident, the chances are that you’ll need a traffic lawyer.

Keep reading to understand your responsibility should you flee the scene of a car crash.

What Is Fleeing the Scene of an Accident?

Fleeing the scene of a vehicle accident is defined as when a driver involved in an accident leaves the scene before they meet their responsibilities.

If that crash involves bodily injury, death, or property damage, the driver has a responsibility to do and provide specific things, such as:

  • Stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible
  • Show your driver’s license if the other party asks
  • Provide identifying information
  • Provide license, registration, and address to any police officers on the scene
  • Make an attempt to locate the other vehicle or property owner
  • If you cannot locate the property owner, you must leave a securely attached note with your information
  • Notify the nearest law enforcement agency of your crash

There are times when a driver hits a parked car or other property. In this case, if the driver attempts to find the owner but can’t, it’s both their duty and the law to leave a note that is securely attached to the damaged property that details the accident. The note must also leave identifying information, such as name, address, insurance, phone number, etc.

Either way, fleeing the scene of an accident is one of the many criminal traffic violations in Florida.

What If the Accident Resulted in Injury or Death?

If the accident resulted in bodily injury or death, there are some additional responsibilities required of the offensive driver.

If it’s obvious that medical treatment is required, the driver must render any “reasonable assistance.” This includes taking that person to the hospital or calling an ambulance.

If the other driver is unable to request their own assistance, it’s also your responsibility to immediately notify law enforcement.

Depending on the severity of the injuries, fleeing the scene of an accident can result in serious criminal charges, which is why many offenders require the assistance of a professional traffic lawyer.

What Warrants a Conviction?

To be convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in Florida, there are a few things that the state must prove.

They must be able to prove that you, the driver, were responsible for driving the vehicle that was involved in a crash that caused property damage, injury, or death to another person.

The state of Florida must also be able to prove that you were aware, or should have been aware, that you were, in fact, involved in the accident.

If you willfully fled the scene without trying to help any injured parties, and the state can prove it, you will be convicted.

And lastly, if you chose to leave WITHOUT providing identifying information or calling the police, you may also be convicted.

What Are the Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?

In the state of Florida, the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident vary, depending on the severity of the damages or injuries. 

If you flee the scene of an accident where property damage was the only result, you run the risk of a second-degree misdemeanor charge. If convicted, you may face a $500 fine and as many as 60 days in jail.

If you leave the scene of an accident that you were involved in and another person involved suffered injuries, you risk being charged with a third-degree felony. If you’re convicted, you could face a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison or 5 years probation.

If you flee a car crash and someone died, you face serious charges. It’s viable that you’ll be charged with a first-degree felony. If you’re convicted, you could face a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison. It’s important to note that if you were also driving under the influence during the accident, you would be subject to a 4-year prison sentence, which is mandatory should you be convicted.

What Are Some of the Defenses for Leaving the Scene?

Leaving the scene of an accident doesn’t result in criminal charges every time. There are many ways in which a traffic ticket lawyer will attempt to lessen the severity of your charges and your case. Some of the defenses for leaving the scene of an accident are as follows:

  • Lack of knowledge that an accident happened
  • Dispute as to who the driver was
  • Lack of knowledge that an impact occurred
  • Special circumstances dictated the failure to stop
  • The other driver refused to accept identifying information
  • The other driver was heavily under the influence so that the defendant chose to leave the scene to call police

Charges for fleeing the scene of an accident do not always result in a conviction. In many cases, an attorney will make contact with other parties and settle out of court. There are many resolutions that avoid probation, jail, and permanent criminal records.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident Is a Serious Offense

In Florida, leaving the scene of an accident is a serious crime. That being said, there are reasons for which a driver may have no choice.

Charges don’t always lead to convictions. But, if you’ve been charged with fleeing the scene, it’s in your best interest to contact a professional who can help your case.

Want to know how to hire the right attorney? Here’s everything you should look for in the right lawyer.