Most people are not clear about Texas Law after an accident, and many choose to run away from the scene. Many run in fear because they are undocumented or because they don’t have a license. Most don’t know that an accident is a civil offense if you are not under the influence or reckless driving. But as soon as you run from the scene, it is a criminal offense.
Attorney Jeff Peek discusses Texas’s law regarding what you should do after being in a car accident.
- What happens if you hit a parked car?
- What’s the difference in legal penalties if you are involved in an accident and are minorly injured vs. seriously injured or killed?
- What are the liabilities or the potential levels of criminality if you leave the scene?
- What if you are an undocumented immigrant?
- What should you do if you left the scene?
What should you do if you hit a parked car?
You have to stop to check to see if there are any damages. If there is, you have to try to inform the owner of the car that you hit their car. No matter if you were at fault or not. If the owner is nowhere to be around, you have to leave your identifying information, insurance information, and driver’s license. If you’re in a store, you may want to go inside and inform the store. Make a reasonable effort to try to notify the owners of the car. You can always call 311 as well, so you don’t necessarily have to wait at the scene, but you certainly want to document that an accident occurred. If you do that, you’re not committing a crime.
Consequences of leaving the scene
If you leave the scene and the damages are under $200, you get a ticket. If it’s over $200, it’s going to be a class B misdemeanor. Now you’re looking at potential jail time and a fine, probation, among other things, all because you didn’t stop. If you would’ve taken the time to stop and leave information, it would only be a matter of insurance resolving.
What happens if a person was seriously injured?
If a person is seriously injured and you left the scene, the penalty increases to a third-degree felony. If somebody dies, it can jump to a second-degree felony. Again, it isn’t necessarily a crime if a person is injured. The crime begins when you leave the scene. If you stay and help somebody seriously injured, there’s no crime.
There are obvious situations that are not the case, such as driving while intoxicated because of alcohol or drugs or driving super recklessly at high velocities and changing lanes dangerously. Those situations are extreme negligence.
Undocumented immigrants might be fearful they’re going to get deported. If you’re an immigrant, you should stay, and you get a class C ticket for no driver’s license and be at the scene, then to run and receive a felony. You are more likely to be deported with a felony than being involved in a civil accident.
What should you do if you left the scene?
Call a lawyer immediately. Even if it’s in the middle of the night. There are lawyers like us, who will answer their phone at any time of the day. Let them know the situation to start mitigating the risk and danger to your case, and ensure you don’t dig yourself into a deeper hole than you’re already in. There may be things we can do that actually might help you get out of the hole. It just depends on your situation.
We don’t advise you to leave, but if you’ve already done it, call us as quickly as possible to avoid future crimes and possibly mitigate punishment later.