Traffic Accident

Texas Hit and Run & Leaving Accident Scene Laws

Hit and run is a very common offense. When a car accident happens, many people’s first instinct is to get away from it. In some cases drivers may not even be aware that they caused damage. Being nervous and anxious or afraid can make us do all kinds of things, and leaving car accident scenes is not uncommon.

Hit and run or leaving accident scene has serious consequences in Texas if you get caught. Depending on severity of the damage this can be a misdemeanor with small fines, or even a felony involving lengthy prison sentences.

What is hit and run?

Hit and run in Texas is defined as being involved in a car accident and fleeing the scene. Accident can be with a pedestrian, another vehicle even if unattended, or other property. Texas refers to its hit-and-run laws as Failure to Stop and Give Information or Render Aid.

Texas laws consider hit and run a serious violation. Injured people can suffer additional harm if left unattended, or there may be other consequences to fleeing accident scenes.

Every individual is required to stop their vehicle or immediately return upon any accident involving injury, death or property damage (regardless of severity). Punishments can range from simple fines or driver license suspensions to significant jail time, depending on circumstances and damage caused.

In case of drunk driving for example, penalties are equal whether you leave the scene or not.

Driver responsibilities

Texas laws require drivers to have certain responsibilities upon being involved in an accident. In all road accident cases you must stop, render assistance if necessary, and provide your contact information.

You must also contact local police department or sheriff’s office in case or injury or death, or when vehicles can not normally and safely be driven. Unless police is already present on scene, in case of property damage over $1,000 driver must submit a written report of the accident to local county police department no longer than 10 days after the accident (as per Sec. 550.061).

Under Texas laws statements you make when filing a report can not be used in a civil suit, so don’t worry about getting sued later.

Further driver responsibilities and penalties for failing to follow Texas hit and run laws are explained below.

Accident with occupied vehicle

Causing an accident with another occupied vehicle requires drivers to stop, render assistance, exchange personal information, and if requested show their driver’s license.

Fleeing accident when there are no injuries sustained by any party is still a Class C misdemeanor, punishable with a $500 fine. If damage caused to all vehicles exceeds $200 (which is almost always the case), it can be considered a Class B misdemeanor with additional fines and up to 6 months in county jail.

Accident with unattended vehicle

Unattended vehicle is for example if you hit another car in a parking lot. Simply driving away is illegal according to Texas law, and you are required to locate the vehicle’s driver or owner and provide your contact information, or place a note with your contact information on a prominent place on damaged vehicle.

Penalties for striking unattended vehicles are the same as for occupied vehicles.

Accident with highway fixtures or landscaping

Causing property damage on highways or streets is quite common as well, and it’s also illegal to simply flee the scene. Driver is required to “take reasonable steps” to contact the owner or person in charge of property, and provide their contact information or show their driver license.

In case damage exceeds $1,000 driver should also file a police report. Failure to do so may lead to your arrest.

Penalties for causing property damage, including structures or fixtures or landscaping on or adjacent to highways are the same as causing an accident with vehicles as above: Class C misdemeanor for damage (to fixtures or landscaping, excluding your vehicle) which is under $200 in value, or Class B misdemeanor for damage over $200 in value.

Accident with personal injury

Fleeing accidents where other people were injured is considered a felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment in state prison, or 1 year in county jail, or up to $5,000. Either or both a financial fine and jail sentence can be your penalty.

Accident with serious injury or death

Causing serious injury (defined by Section 1.07 of Texas Penal Code as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition) is a 3rd degree felony. Causing death and running from accident scene is a 2nd degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence up to 20 years, and up to $5,000 fine. Legal penalty equals that of intoxicated manslaughter.

Potential court defenses

First and most important fact in hit and run cases is that prosecution must prove the driver was aware of an accident or damage caused. If there is no discernible damage to property of others, for example if you spin off the road but don’t damage anything besides your own vehicle, you are not required to contact law enforcement.

For example you can hit a road bump at night, and not know whether it was a pothole or an animal. Or you could hit a road sign which appears to be undamaged, but later turns out there was damage. Either of these situations could potentially clear you from hit and run charges.

In addition prosecution must be able to prove identity of the driver. Any other passengers and witnesses are not required to remain on accident scene, which means proving who was behind the wheel can be difficult.

However, number one and most important thing to keep in mind when facing leaving accident scene charges is to contact a lawyer. Experienced Texas traffic law or criminal defense attorneys can look at each case individually and help you determine whether there is any legal basis for fighting your case in court. Hit and run cases, especially when injuries are involved, can have serious life-altering consequences and it’s highly recommended to seek professional legal help.

If you are involved in a car accident it’s never a good idea to simply flee the scene. Damage you may be liable for is usually lower than certain fines and penalties involved with fleeing the scene, and in this day and age of mass surveillance and phone cameras it’s often hard to get away and not get caught.

Fleeing incident scenes can carry harsh penalties and financial fines, and police officers may arrest you without a warrant. In serious cases where injuries are involved fleeing a car accident can be considered a felony.

If you were involved in a car accident and fled the scene, do not talk to police, do not admit you were driving, and don’t even contact your insurance company before you consult an attorney. Police may know your vehicle was involved, but proving YOU were driving is much more difficult. You probably regretted it immediately after, but what’s done is done, and now it’s time to minimize damage.

Your lawyer can handle your insurance claim, ensuring the insurance company can’t provide further evidence of your identity to the police. Your attorney can even contact potential victims on your behalf and convince them to settle the case out of court, therefore getting rid of any criminal charges.

Even if your case gets to court, an experienced criminal attorney can potentially reduce your charges to a misdemeanor, or find other legal defenses or loopholes to avoid harsh sentences.

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This article about Texas Hit and Run & Leaving Accident Scene Laws was last updated in 2024. If any of our information is incomplete or outdated please let us know. Thank you!