Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If you’ve been in an accident, the urge to flee the scene can feel overwhelming. However, even a minor accident can cause serious issues.
Put yourself in this situation: you’re in an accident; it doesn’t seem as if anyone is hurt, but you don’t want to deal with the hassle of the police or dealing with insurance. Panic takes over and you head for the hills.
Fleeing the scene of an accident plugs straight into our fight or flight instincts. However, in Pennsylvania it is a serious offense. In some cases, it will be classed a felony and leads to a long prison sentence.
Your obligations after an accident
If you’ve been in an accident, the law has a number of expectations: you should share your registration number, provide full contact details, show your driver’s license and any paperwork relating to financial responsibility.
You’ll have to hand these details to anyone else involved in the accident and a police officer if present.
If you fail to do this and leave the scene, you’ll have committed a crime. Exactly how serious depends on the severity of the crash.
Penalties for leaving the scene of an accident
If the crash only involved property damage, you’ll be arrested for a third degree misdemeanor. This could be enough to incur a year in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500. In some cases, it might be both.
If someone has been injured, it will be classed as a first-degree misdemeanour. This means up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Once injuries get worse, we’re into felony territory. Mandatory minimums apply here which means at least 90 days in prison and a fine of no less than $1,000.
If there has been a fatality, it’s a second-degree felony. You’ll spend at least three years in prison and be fined a minimum of $2,500.
Seeking legal assistance
Leaving the scene of an accident may seem fairly open and shut. You either did or didn’t. Even so, you should consult a lawyer immediately. He or she may be able to reduce the scale of the penalties.
For example, there are exceptions to your legal duty if you leave the scene to head to a police station. This might apply if none of the participants were in a condition to accept your contact details or if you were unable to fulfil your legal obligations for some reason.
If you have fled the scene, you still have a chance to cooperate by contacting the authorities before they try to find you. Cooperation will be viewed positively when the case goes to court and any penalties imposed may be lower as a result.
So, although you may think the damage has already been done, there are still things a qualified lawyer can do to help. To find out more, feel free to get in touch for an informal chat today.