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Leaving the Scene of an Accident – How Bad is it?
Car accidents happen. Whether it’s a major crash or a minor fender-bender, in an effort to avoid trouble, some drivers might be tempted to leave the scene. Some may simply panic, while others may be under the influence or without proper insurance or registration papers. However, any driver who thinks leaving the scene of an accident is a good idea is asking for more trouble than they probably bargained for.
In Missouri, leaving the scene of an accident, or “hit and run” as it is called, is a criminal offense. At the very least, it is considered a Class A Misdemeanor. Yet, if any of the following occurs, the charges become a Class D Felony:
- The accident causes physical injury to another person
- The accident causes property damage over $ 1000.00
- The driver who leaves has a previous conviction or has pled guilty to a similar offense.
While a Class A Misdemeanor is no joke, a Class D Felony is obviously a more serious charge.
If you leave the scene of an accident, you could face serious consequences of both a civil and criminal nature.
From a criminal standpoint, the lessor charge of Class A Misdemeanor can result in the imposition of fines up to $ 1,000.00 and up to one year in prison. If the charge is elevated to a Class D Felony for any of the reasons noted above, fines can go up to $ 5,000.00 and potential jail time increases to 4 years.
Depending upon whether the offense occurs at the State or County/Municipal level, you could have anywhere from between 6 to 12 points assessed against your license. In addition, your driving privileges can be suspended or revoked temporarily or even permanently, depending upon past driving history.
Further, your insurance rates will likely increase dramatically and you might even be dropped by your current insurance company, forcing you to obtain future insurance through a high-risk (and high rate) insurance company.
Finally, if injury or property damage occurred as a result of the accident, you could face civil liability if the injured party decides to sue.
Responsibilities in an Accident
If you are involved in a car accident in Missouri, you have certain responsibilities. First and foremost, you should stop your vehicle in a safe location but remain at the scene (for instance, if the accident occurred on an active railroad track, you would not leave your car sitting on the track, but you wouldn’t drive it to the next town over, either). You are expected to render aid to anyone who is injured (if possible), and await the arrival of authorities and/or medical personal, if applicable. You are also obligated to provide proper documentation (license, registration, insurance information).
Whatever the situation, leaving the scene of an accident is a bad decision. As tempting as it may be in the panic of the moment ultimately, you will only make a bad situation much worse.