Everyone knows that hit-and-run accidents are terrible. A driver, often under the influence, strikes another vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist, and just – keeps driving, with no attempt to stop and see if there are any injuries or deaths. In the United States, there are an average of 2,000 hit-and-run accidents each day (6 of them fatal). In Indiana, there were 24,892 hit-and-run accidents in 2020, 14% of the total amount. According to an article in The Washington Post, drivers flee accident scenes for several reasons:
- They don’t want to be in trouble because they have been drinking or taking drugs.
- They are under the influence so much that they don’t even realize what they have done.
- They have an outstanding warrant or other reason to want to avoid the police.
- They are driving without a license, insurance, car registration, or all three.
- They panic and go into “flight mode.”
- And some drivers assume that their accident is so trivial that they have no need to stop.
It’s obvious that as both a law-abiding citizen and as a good person, you should always stop to check on others if you have been involved in an accident. However, what about leaving the scene of an accident with no injuries? What if the vehicle damage seems minor? Is it ok to leave then?
Not so fast. Even if you put legal ramifications aside (which you should not), it is in your own best interest to report your accident to a law enforcement officer.
Let’s start with the legal requirements in Indiana.
It certainly can be. According to Indiana Code 9-26-1-1.1, if you are driving and are involved in an accident, you must:
- Stop your car at the scene or as close to the scene of the accident as is safely possible, while trying not to obstruct traffic.
- Call the police to report the accident.
- Exchange information with the other driver. This means that you give your name, address, and vehicle registration number. You should also show your driver’s license.
- Render assistance to anyone who is injured (this may simply mean calling an ambulance) while you remain on the scene to wait for authorities.
It is a felony to leave the scene if anyone has been injured or killed.
Even if there seem to be no injuries, you still may be guilty of a misdemeanor if you leave and there are property damages equaling $1,000 or more.
In many cases when two drivers who have just had a collision agree that the damage seems to be minor and that no one is injured, they are tempted not to report the accident. The other driver may say that car insurance rates could go up if you have an accident on your record or suggest that you should both try to avoid paying your deductibles because the damage is so slight. It can be extremely tempting to take this offer. However, it is not wise.
- Even minor scrapes and scratches on your car can end up costing far more to fix than you would expect. The same will be true of the other driver’s vehicle. The damage can easily cost more than $1,000. Don’t take the risk of committing a misdemeanor.
- You may not realize that you have been injured until after the fact. While adrenaline is still coursing through your body, you may not realize that you have a concussion, a back injury, or even internal injuries. Some symptoms of whiplash aren’t evident for 12 hours or more after the initial accident.
- The other driver may be injured without realizing it at the time.
- You need a police report for your insurance company and for the other driver’s insurance company. The report will include vital details about the cause of the accident, which will be necessary for the at-fault driver’s insurance company to agree to pay your claims.
All of these scenarios assume that the other driver is an upstanding person who has told you the absolute truth at the scene and who will remain anchored in decency. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.
- If you both leave the scene, he may later contact your insurance company to fraudulently claim major damages to his car or significant injuries to himself or his passengers. Without a police report, you are missing vital information that you need to fight your case.
- The other driver may have been under the influence, avoiding a warrant, or driving without a license.
- If the other driver was without insurance and you subsequently find that you are injured, you will need to file with your own insurance company under your underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.
- The other driver may have said that he was at fault at the time but may change his story and try to blame you after the fact. Don’t allow this to happen. Stay at the scene of the accident and make sure to get the police report.
Accidents that seem simple seldom are. If you have been injured in an accident and find yourself at odds with an insurance company or the other driver, rely on the experienced car accident attorneys at Poynter & Bucheri. They know the ins and outs of leaving the scene of an accident with no injuries and they can help establish fault and can fight for fair compensation for your economic and noneconomic damages.
Call today for a free case review at 1-800-265-9881, or contact us online.