The aftermath of a hit and run car accident can leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed. When that happens, a car accident attorney can fight for you, helping you win your power—and your money—back.
If you’re a driver on North Carolina roads, it’s important that you know what a hit and run is, what the consequences can be, and what to do in case you’ve been the victim of one. The circumstances of every hit and run car accident are different, which is why it's so important to consult a car accident lawyer to protect your rights. Here's an overview that highlights some of the consequences of hit and run car accidents in North Carolina.
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What is a Hit and Run Car Accident?
A “hit and run” refers to any car accident in which one of the parties leaves the scene. Whether or not serious property damage or bodily injury has occurred, drivers in North Carolina are legally required to stay with their cars after an accident until police and other emergency responders arrive.
An accident can be deemed a “hit and run” when it involves a collision with another car, a pedestrian, or an object. In many states, it also doesn’t matter whether you were responsible for the accident or not—you commit a “hit and run” the second you leave the scene (with a few exceptions), even if you were the one who was hit.
Is a Hit and Run a Felony?
In North Carolina, a hit and run can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Remember that if you've been involved in a hit and run car accident, it's imperative that you act accordingly at the scene and in the courtroom. In this type of car accident, it's best to consult a car accident lawyer who can navigate this process with experience.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run in North Carolina
A hit and run in North Carolina can be classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor, but only if any property damage or injury caused was very minor. In some cases, you may be charged with a misdemeanor if no injury was sustained as a result, but some property damage occurred.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run, you may face up to 120 days in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
When Is a Hit and Run a Felony in North Carolina?
Depending on the circumstances, a hit and run can be considered either a Class H or Class F felony. The North Carolina General Assembly website notes more details of what happens in a hit and run car accident in North Carolina.
If the accident causes injury, it will likely be classified as a Class H felony. If the accident results in serious bodily injury or death, it is classified as a Class F felony.
Criminal Consequences of a Felony Hit and Run
If a driver is convicted of a Class H felony, they may be subject to anywhere from four to 25 months in jail. They may also be forced to pay between $5,000 and $20,000 in fines.
If the offense is deemed a Class F felony, the criminal consequences can be heftier. This is punishable by anywhere from 10 to 41 months in jail, and up to $20,000 in fines.
Administrative Penalties of a Felony Hit and Run
On top of heavy fines and jail time issued by the legal system, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles issues its own consequences to a felony hit and run in the form of administrative penalties.
Those penalties include an automatic suspension of your driver's license for six months to three years—though in some cases the suspension may be lifelong.
Civil Penalties of a Felony Hit and Run
If you are found at-fault for the accident, you may also be subject to civil penalties in the form of lawsuits from the other party for damages or medical bills.
While it’s true that you may still be subject to civil penalties when you stay at the scene of an accident you caused, it's still not worth it to leave: In hit and run cases, you may be subject to “treble damages” which are fines up to three times the original amount.
What to Do After a Car Accident
So we know you shouldn’t ever leave the scene of a car accident, but what is the perfect protocol to abide by in the chaos of a collision? While there are some exceptions to the rule, there are a few things you should absolutely do after a car accident to be sure you are abiding by the law in North Carolina.
- Stop your vehicle as close as you can to the accident scene without putting yourself or other drivers in danger, or blocking traffic.
- Stay with your car (as long as it doesn’t put you in danger) until emergency response teams have permitted you to leave.
- If you or another person has been injured, call law enforcement and Emergency Medical Service right away. Administer assistance to the injured party if possible, but be careful not to worsen the injury.
- If no one has been injured, exchange contact information and identification with the other driver. Take pictures of damage as soon as you can, as this will make it easier to file an insurance claim.
- If you have hit a parked car, make note of the license plate on the car and leave a note for the other driver with your contact information.
Is It Ever Okay to Leave the Scene of an Accident in North Carolina?
In most cases, leaving the scene of an accident in North Carolina is deemed a “hit and run” and classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. There are just a few circumstances, though, in which it is appropriate to leave the scene. Just be sure to return “within a reasonable amount of time”.
To Call for Emergency Services
You may find yourself in a situation in which it is necessary to leave the scene to call for help. It may be that your phone was damaged in the accident and you need to find another one, or you do not have service at the site of the crash. Whatever the reason, you may leave to call for help, as long as you return as soon as possible.
To Get Medical Attention
If you are injured in the accident and need to be taken to the hospital, you will not be punished for leaving the scene.
To Avoid Further Injury
If the accident occurs in an area with heavy traffic or other hazards, you may be allowed to wait in a nearby safe location for the emergency responders.
If You Hit a Parked Car
If you hit a parked car, you should still wait at the scene for a reasonable amount of time for the owner to return. Only once you have waited a bit, and it seems that the owner of the car will not be returning, you can then leave the scene only if you leave a note in a secure location including the following information:
- Your name
- Your email address
- Your phone number
Once you have done that, contact the authorities as soon as you can to file a report.
Final Word: Hit and Run Car Accident Lawyers
If you have been involved in a hit and run accident, the fallout can be life-altering. At Van Camp, Meacham & Newman, our car accident attorneys work with you and for you to get the compensation and fair representation you deserve.
We offer a free 30-minute initial consultation with our car accident lawyers. In your session, we answer questions you might have about the process, so you can make an informed decision about choosing us as your car accident lawyers.
Disclaimer: The information seen on this website, including the article above, is not legal advice or legal counsel. If you wish to speak to a car accident lawyer, contact our North Carolina attorneys directly using our online form or by calling 910-295-2525. While our law firm is located in North Carolina, our car accident attorneys have tried cases and work with clients across the country, from Raleigh, Fayetteville, Pinehurst, and Sanford, to Virginia, Illinois, Oregon, and California to Florida. Call our experienced attorneys today.