Car accidents are fairly regular occurrences. Most of the time, sorting out a car accident is no big deal because the people involved are willing to accept responsibility. It also helps that insurance is there to cover the repairs. Unfortunately, some drivers neglect to fulfill their responsibilities to their fellow motorists. They demonstrate a failure to stop accidents. In other words, they perpetuate hit-and-run offenses.
The state of Texas takes hit-and-run offenses seriously. Learn more about the way Texas handles hit-and-run crimes by continuing with the rest of this article.
Hit-and-Run Laws in Texas
What constitutes a hit-and-run offense in Texas? To answer that question, we need to look closely at Texas Transportation Code Chapter 550. Based on that section of Texas law, the extent of your responsibilities will vary based on the specific type of incident that took place.
Crashes Involving Potential Injury or Death
In a situation where the accident is reasonably likely to result in either injury or death, you must stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as you can. You must return to the accident site if you do not stop immediately.
You should also check if anyone at the accident site is injured. Upon confirming that someone is injured, you must offer “reasonable assistance.” Reasonable assistance could include transporting the injured party to the hospital or calling for emergency responders.
Also, you must give your name, address, vehicle information, and insurance details to the other party.
Crashes Involving Vehicle Damage
Your legal responsibilities are mostly the same, even if the accident only resulted in vehicle damage. Of course, you do not need to offer “reasonable assistance” for someone’s injuries in this scenario.
However, you may need to move your vehicle if you can still drive it. Both you and the other driver will need to move your cars if they disrupt traffic.
Crashes Involving Unattended Vehicles
While looking for a parking spot, you may accidentally clip one of the other vehicles in the lot. Whether or not the vehicle has sustained obvious damage, you must take responsibility for what happened.
You need to find the vehicle’s owner and give them your name, address, and contact details to do that. If you cannot find that individual, you should attach a note containing your name, address, and contact details to their vehicle. Make sure you place the notice in a conspicuous spot so the vehicle’s owner can see it immediately.
Crashes Involving Structures, Fixtures, or Highway Landscaping
Motorists must also stop if they hit a structure, fixture, or highway landscaping. After pulling over, you must take reasonable steps to locate the owner of the property you hit. You can also talk to the person in charge of the property if the owner is absent.
Once you have found the property owner or the person in charge, you must provide your name, address, and vehicle information. You must also present your driver’s license if the other party requests it.
What Are the Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Texas?
The penalties assessed for hit-and-run offenses will vary based on the extent of damages caused.
In cases where the driver fled after hitting an unattended vehicle, structure, fixture, or highway landscaping, they will charge the assailant with either a Class C or Class B misdemeanor. Class C misdemeanor charges are for cases where the total damages cost less than $200. Anything over $200 will result in a Class B misdemeanor charge.
Fines are for anyone found guilty of committing Class C or Class B misdemeanors. A fine for a Class C misdemeanor cannot exceed $500. The limit is $2,000 for Class B misdemeanor offenses.
Penalties for hit-and-run offenses that involve injury or death are more severe. The assailant may be charged with a county jail felony if the victim sustains minor injuries. A county jail felony comes with a fine capped at $5,000. The charges are elevated to a third-degree felony if the victim suffers serious bodily injury. Fines for third-degree felonies should not exceed $10,000.
Lastly, a person responsible for a hit-and-run accident that leads to a fatality will receive a second-degree felony. The fine limit for second-degree felonies is also $10,000.
Can You Go to Jail for a Texas Hit-and-Run?
Individuals guilty of hit-and-run offenses in Texas can go to jail. Jail first becomes a possibility if the offense is a Class B misdemeanor. The maximum jail sentence for a Class B misdemeanor is 180 days. If you receive a county jail felony, you may be incarcerated for up to five years.
Committing a third-degree felony can land you in prison for at least two years. Your sentence could also last for a decade. The harshest penalties are for offenders who left people to die. Their sentences may last for twenty years.
Does Insurance Cover Hit-and-Run Accidents?
You were minding your business when another vehicle struck your car and sped away. Unable to gather any details about the other driver, you must now look elsewhere for compensation.
Will your insurer step up to offer the compensation you need? The answer to that question will depend on the terms of your auto insurance policy.
Compensation will be within your reach if your plan includes collision, personal injury protection (PIP), or uninsured motorist coverage. Collision coverage pays for your repairs, while PIP accounts for your medical bills. Uninsured motorist coverage can offer compensation for both expenses.
Note that none of these policies are required by law. Insurers must offer PIP and uninsured motorist coverage, but you can turn them down in writing. Collision coverage is not even a mandatory offering from insurers.
Hopefully, those policies are included in your auto insurance package. If they are not, you must come up with other ways to cover your bills.
Texas Hit-and-Run Accident Attorney
Without collision, PIP, or uninsured coverage, your best bet to secure compensation following your hit-and-run accident is to locate your assailant. Attorney Stacey Barrus is no stranger to hit-and-run cases, and he can help locate the party responsible for your accident. Once that individual is found, you can count on Stacey to secure the compensation that is rightfully yours.