Accidents can happen out of nowhere, and after the initial shock, you may have adrenaline running through your veins that can impair your decision-making. You may get spooked and feel like running away from the scene to avoid the situation, even if you weren’t at fault. However, it is crucial to calm yourself during these times and not let your instincts override your common sense. You have a legal duty to render aid to anyone harmed during the crash. In some places, this even includes animals that were hit. Then you are required to inform the police and stay until you are dismissed from the scene. Failing to fulfill your duties can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the accident’s severity, and also leaves you open to civil penalties.
What Are the Criminal Penalties of a Hit and Run Accident?
It is considered a hit-and-run accident if you collide with another vehicle, a pedestrian, an object (like a street sign or mailbox), and, in some places, an animal, then leave the scene without helping injured victims or providing your information. This still applies even if you weren’t at fault for the accident. In Colorado, any accident that causes damage or injury must be reported to the police. If the driver is too hurt to report the incident, another occupant of the vehicle should report it.
The criminal penalties for a hit and run escalate quickly as the severity of the accident increases. These are the charges and consequences for a hit and run in Colorado, based on the type of injury the accident caused:
- Property damage only, no injuries: A class two traffic misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
- Any kind of injury: A class one misdemeanor, punishable by 18 months in jail and a $5000 fine.
- Serious injury: A class four felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
- Death: A class three felony, punishable by up to 12 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.
What Civil Penalties Can You Face if You Leave an Accident Scene?
In addition to any criminal charges, the other parties in a car accident may choose to bring a civil suit against you to recover damages. In these cases, your choice to leave the scene can reflect poorly upon you and make it appear that you may have been at fault for the accident. If you left an accident scene where someone was injured, they might argue that they did not receive timely medical assistance due to your failure to render aid, which made their injuries worse. This conduct can be considered willful or wanton disregard for the wellbeing of the victim, which may bring hefty punitive damages into play in addition to damages awarded for medical bills and pain and suffering.
Are There Other Consequences for Not Remaining at the Scene After an Accident?
If facing criminal charges and significant civil penalties wasn’t enough to deter individuals from leaving the scene of an accident, most states, including Colorado, will impose restrictions on the driver’s license of the hit-and-run driver. Typically their license will be revoked for several months, although depending on the circumstances, this period can last up to three years. In certain severe cases, a lifetime driving revocation may be imposed. After all of this, insurance companies will usually cancel the policy of anyone convicted of a hit and run, making it difficult and expensive to get coverage even if you regain your driving privileges.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a hit and run accident, contact our law office today for a consultation: 303-500-1376