Law

Leaving the Scene of an Accident Texas

Eric Torberson

In Texas there is a responsibility to pay for damages that you cause when you are driving a vehicle. It makes sense as with any property damage that we cause, it’s only fair that we take responsibility for fixing it. But it does not always work that way.

What is the duty on Striking Structure, Fixture or Highway Landscaping?

This statute can get a person charged with a Class C or Class B misdemeanor. The determining factor is whether the damage is less than $200 making it a Class C, or more than $200 making it a Class B misdemeanor.

An operator of a vehicle that has been in an accident resulting in damage to a structure, fixture, or landscape on or adjacent to a highway is required contact someone. The statute says the driver must take reasonable steps to locate and notify the property owner or manager. The driver must provide name, address, and registration of the vehicle in the accident. Also the driver must show driver’s license to the owner or manager of the property damaged if requested.

What is a Highway?

It is important to understand how “highway” is defined. I used to think of an expressway with high speed limits such as a freeway. The Texas Transportation Code 601.002(4) defines it as the entire width between property lines of a road, street or way in this state that is not privately owned or controlled. Also it is open to the public for vehicle traffic and the state has legislative jurisdiction under it police power.

This is news to the uninformed, that this could apply to either a residential street alley or a freeway. Basically just about any roadway that is not on private property.

What is a Driver’s Duty After Striking an Unattended Vehicle?

A driver who hits an unoccupied vehicle is required to find the owner or operator or leave their contact information and circumstances on or in the damaged unoccupied vehicle.

Like the prior, law this statute also delineates the level based on damages. The damages to a vehicle totally less than $200 make it a Class C misdemeanor. Damages above $200 make it a Class B misdemeanor to leave without leaving information.

Here the operator who collides with and damages an unattended vehicle must immediately stop and give his name and address to the owner or operator of the unattended vehicle. If that is not possible, the driver must leave a note with name and address with the circumstances in a conspicuous place in or on the vehicle.

Can You Move Your Car After Accident?

According to Texas Transportation Code 550.002(b), a driveable vehicle involved in an accident on a freeway main lane, ramp, shoulder, or median must move the vehicle to minimize interference with freeway traffic.

The driver is required to move the vehicle as soon as possible to an accident investigation site, frontage road, cross street, or suitable location to give information or render aid.

This law applies to accidents in metropolitan areas and is a Class C misdemeanor if violated.

What To Do After a Car Accident?

Assuming there are no injuries, a driver involved in an accident with only vehicle damages is supposed to immediately stop or stop as close to the accident scene without obstructing traffic unnecessarily.

If the vehicle is still in motion, the driver is required to return to the scene of the accident. If already at the scene the driver is required to stay until the required information is exchanged.

Failure to stay at the scene, will subject the driver who leaves to a Class C misdemeanor if the damage to all the vehicles is less than $200. If the damage to all the vehicles is more than $200 it is a Class B misdemeanor to leave without exchanging information.

What Do I Do in a Car Accident Involving Injury?

When an accident results or is reasonably likely to result in injury or death occurs, the driver is required to stay at or return to the scene of the accident. Without unnecessarily obstructing traffic, the driver is supposed to determine if the injured people require aid and also remain at the scene until information is exchanged and aid is rendered.

Leaving the scene of an accident when injuries or death are involved has serious consequences. There are 3 levels of felonies involved depending on the degree of injury or if death occurred.

  • If the accident involves only “injury”, leaving the scene can result in probation or up to 5 years in prison or up to 1 year in county jail. A fine can be up to $5,000.
  • If the accident involves “serious bodily injury” as defined in Penal Code 1.07, it is a 3rd degree felony to leave the scene of the accident. Serious bodily injury serious permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a bodily member or organ.
  • An accident resulting in death is the highest level of offense. Not sticking around will possibly result in a 2nd degree felony involving up to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Leaving the scene of an accident is likely not the sole crime a person would be charged with. It would be included with other possible crimes such as dwi, or criminal negligent homicide.

What is the Duty to Give Information and Render Aid?

As mentioned earlier the driver of a vehicle causing injury or death or damage to a vehicle must give their information. The information includes name, address, and vehicle registration number. Also the driver must provide his or her liability insurer to any person injured or the other vehicle operator and occupants.

The driver must also show a driver’s license to any of the above who request to see it.

More importantly, the driver must provide reasonable assistance whether it is transporting or arranging transportation for an injured person to a hospital or physician for medical treatment. Case law has mentioned that personally driving a victim to the hospital is not required. But staying at the scene until medical personnel arrive or a person the driver knows is capable of emergency medical assistance is required.

Is Each Injured Person a Different Offense?

Texas case law determines that double jeopardy does not apply to each separate victim when charging a person for leaving the scene. The legislature’s intent in a hit and run is to aid all victims. This makes leaving the scene a separate offense for each person injured or killed in an accident.

I represent clients charged with many different offenses. There are different reasons for what people do. There is no perfect situation that applies to every fact situation. It is important to give all the details to an attorney who you trust.

I go over all the scenarios and issues that need to be discussed before negotiations begin with the state. It is never a hopeless situation and there is always a way for life to get better. Contact me at 512-340-7300 or fill in my contact form here or at https://criminalattorneyinaustin.com to get more information about how to handle your case.