The consequences of leaving the scene of a car accident

Getting into a wreck brings forth a rush of emotions. There’s the adrenaline that kicks in from the impact. There’s the shaky feeling of being out of control. Then, your brain starts rapid-firing all the things you need to do.

With so much to focus on, your attention often isn’t on the other driver involved in your car crash. So, what happens if they leave the scene before police arrive?

What to do after you’ve been in a car crash

After a car crash, there’s a set list of things to do to make sure you stay safe and get all the information you need to submit a claim to your insurance company. Make sure you:
• Call 911
• Keep yourself and others in your car safe (even if that means staying in your car until police arrive)
• Document the wreck with pictures
• Collect pertinent information from the other driver(s)
• Talk to witnesses, if any
• Make plans to get medical care if necessary

This isn’t a short list, especially when your mind is still overcome with the emotion of being in the car crash itself. Should the other driver leave the scene early, it only gets more complicated, but now all the pressure is on you.

Leaving the scene has consequences

In Georgia, it’s a criminal offense to leave the scene, even if the car wreck is not your fault, until you fulfill a certain set of obligations. If a crash causes property damage, injury, or death, all parties involved must immediately stop and stay put until you can:

• Exchange personal information that includes name, address, and vehicle registration
• Show and share driver’s license information if asked
• Offer reasonable assistance to any injured parties
• Contact law enforcement to report the car crash and get medical support if necessary

Failure to do all these things, before leaving the scene of a car wreck, could result in criminal charges. Depending on the circumstances, the departing party may even end up with a felony or misdemeanor charge. Even if you’ve exchanged some information, and are about to contact the police, if the driver of the other car leaves the scene beforehand, serious consequences could result.

What happens if the other driver leaves the scene

If you’re in a situation where the other driver leaves the scene before the police arrive, make sure to document the behavior. It may ultimately help you collect compensation for property damage and medical bills related to the car crash. In the eyes of many courts, the driver who flees the scene can look more guilty just based on their behavior.

You should stay put until the police arrive, report what information you were able to collect and let the authorities know what happened. They may pursue additional legal action against the other driver.

Remember, the obligation, according to Georgia law, isn’t to wait for the police, but to exchange all pertinent information, offer assistance, and contact emergency services. As long as they do that, and you have the right information, the police shouldn’t have a problem issuing a citation for the crash. The driver who left will just miss out on collecting that vital information right then.

To avoid having issues on your end, should the other driver leave the scene early, make sure you immediately take down the license plate number of the other car involved. At the very least, you’ll have this identifying piece of information should they decide to flee the scene before providing you with anything else.

If the other driver leaves the scene, you should absolutely call the police. Be aware that most insurance companies require that you call the police in such a situation. Your own insurance company can deny coverage for your damages if you don’t contact law enforcement. 

Is it a hit-and-run?

A car crash gets labeled as a hit-and-run when one party, involved in the wreck, doesn’t stop at all afterward. Say you’re making a left turn at an intersection on a green arrow, but the car on the other side of the intersection doesn’t see you coming and turns right on red. They side swipe you, but just keep going while you pull over to stop. You don’t have time to catch their license plate. You haven’t exchanged any information. You haven’t even had time to assess if you and those in your car are okay. This is a hit-and-run.

Conversely, if a car, involved in the same type of wreck, leaves the scene after exchanging information and verifying that you’re not injured, they have not committed a hit-and-run. Even if they leave before police arrive, they did make the effort to stop and engage with you about the crash. While their action may have legal ramifications, they won’t be as severe as if they never stopped at all.

Make the aftermath of a car wreck easier to handle with help

No matter what the specifics are, when you’re in a car crash, it’s always best to reach out for guidance regarding your rights and compensation. To ensure you work with someone who puts your best interest at number one, contact Nicholson, Silverbach, & Watson. Our dedicated team focuses on getting car crash victims the compensation they deserve. By treating each claim as a unique situation, and prioritizing the investigative process, our approach gets you the best resources to move on past your wreck. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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We want to connect with you and help you during this challenging time. If it’s more convenient to communicate via email, please reach out to us at info@nsw.law.