LegalReader.com  ·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

What is the Penalty for a Hit and Run Accident?


— July 13, 2021

If you are ever involved in a car accident of any kind, get to safety, check for injury, and call the police to report the accident.


If you’re ever in an accident where you hit another vehicle or a pedestrian, never flee the scene. Even if you’re driving without a license or insurance and you’re afraid of getting in trouble, it is always better to remain at the scene than it is to leave. 

The consequences of a hit-and-run accident are not worth it. The extent of the legal trouble you’re in for leaving the scene of an accident varies, of course. The penalty varies depending on the state where the accident occurred and the extent of property damage and personal injury. Any time injury occurs, those hurt may be entitled to pain and suffering damages.

What is a Hit and Run?

A hit and run is typically defined as a car accident involving a pedestrian, a fixed object, or another vehicle, and then leaving the scene before you identify yourself or provide assistance to anyone who may need it. A few states even include any collision involving an animal in their definition of hit and run.

In the majority of states, you do not have to be the one who causes the accident to be charged with a hit and run. The act of simply leaving the scene is enough for a charge. If you have to the scene to receive assistance – such as going to a nearby location for a better cell signal, most states consider this okay. However, you have to immediately return to the scene.

Most states also include parking collision provisions in their hit and run laws. So, if you back into an unoccupied car as you’re leaving the grocery store and don’t take the time to leave a note with your contact information on it, you can be charged with a hit and run.

Criminal Penalties for Hit and Run

Bike vs. car accident, bike on side in road; image by LosAngeles PersonalInjuryAttorney, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Image by LosAngeles PersonalInjuryAttorney, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

If you leave the scene of an accident, the criminal penalty will vary. Most states can charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. Typically, felony hit and run is reserved for leaving the scene of an accident where injury has occurred – whether that is a pedestrian or a vehicle occupant.

In the case of a felony, most states charge fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, with potential for jail time. Some states can sentence up to 15 years in prison, depending on the nature of the accident and its resulting injuries.

In the case of misdemeanors, you may be fined up to 5,000 and up to 12 months in jail.

Beyond criminal charges, you may also find yourself with administrative penalties on your license, depending on the state. Many states automatically revoke or suspend your license for about six months, regardless of whether the conviction is a misdemeanor or a felony. Not only this, but your insurance company may drop you, making it hard for you to continue to drive a vehicle. If they don’t drop you, your premium will definitely increase.

If you are ever involved in a car accident of any kind, get to safety, check for injury, and call the police to report the accident.

Join the conversation!