All states have laws governing procedure following a motor vehicle accident. The exact actions that legally must be taken are usually determined by three factors: damage to property, injury to persons, and death.
Following an automobile accident, it is standard procedure to stop the vehicle in a safe location as soon as possible and to exchange information with the other driver. Do not leave the scene of an accident! When exchanging information with the other driver, you should be sure to get:
- Phone number
- Insurance company
- Policy number
- Drivers’ license number
- License plate number
Should a driver damage an unoccupied vehicle or other property, state laws generally require that every reasonable effort be made to contact the owner of the damaged property. Two advisable steps include taking down the license plate number of a damaged car and leaving a note with contact information at the scene.
Following an accident in which one or more parties were injured, the law requires that reasonable steps be taken as soon as possible to aid any injured person. Common sense steps include calling for emergency medical services (EMS) and for the police.
If a driver does not remain at the scene of an accident and fulfill all of his/her obligations, a traffic ticket can be issued. It is advisable for a driver to wait for the police to arrive and to remain until they say it is acceptable to leave. A ticket, however, is the minimum penalty. Leaving the scene of an accident is usually a serious criminal offense that can result in large fines and jail-time. In the case of a serious accident, it may be classified as a felony.
There are two complete defenses to a hit and run charge. If an accident does not result in injury or damage, this is a complete defense. If the driver can prove that he/she had no knowledge that the accident took place, this is also a complete defense. Other defenses are not likely to hold up in court; for example, claiming you were going to drive to the police station. The cardinal rule of car accidents is do not leave the scene.