How Long After a Hit and Run Accident Can You Be Charged?
A hit and run occurs when a driver who has been involved in an accident has left the scene. Whether the act is due to unawareness or is intentional, leaving the scene of an accident you are involved in with another car, property, or with a pedestrian is usually a crime. Depending on the circumstances, this could result in either felony charges or a misdemeanor brought against the person leaving.
Types of Hit and Run Accidents
The distinction between misdemeanor and felony hit and run accidents is usually related to the extent of the damage and/or injuries involved. For example, a misdemeanor could be charged for accidents resulting in minor property damage and/or personal injury. In this case, the hit and run driver may be charged with a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor may result in a short jail sentence and/or a fine.
For more serious accidents, such as those that result in a fatality or those involving negligence or driving under the influence, the hit and run driver may be charged with a felony. In this case, jail time is much higher, fines are astronomical, and civil damages may even be sought.
State Laws Regarding Statute of Limitations and Hit and Run Accidents
Each state sets their own driving rules, laws and penalties for breaking these. Hit and run accidents are treated differently in each state. The statute of limitations, or how long after a hit and run accident a driver can be charged with a crime also varies.
For instance, in California the statute of limitations for a hit and run is six years. This means that the state has six years after the accident to file charges against you. In New York, it depends on whether the accident resulted in injury, property damage, or death. For injury cases, the statute of limitations is three years. For property damage, the statute is also three years. But, for cases involving death, the statute is two years from the date of death. Note that the date of death is the key, not the date of the accident. In Ohio, the statute of limitations for a hit and run accident is two years for injury lawsuits.
What You Should Do If You are Involved in an Accident
If you’re involved in an accident, the number one rule to always, always follow is do not leave the scene. If the accident does not involve others and is just property damage (e.g., you hit someone else’s parked car) you must leave your information where you think they will find it.
Minor fender benders are another case where you must be careful that you are not later accused of leaving the scene. Though an accident or incident may seem minor to you, the other party may think otherwise. If you do not exchange information and the other driver or the police can later identify you, you may be charged with leaving the scene and your accident may be viewed as a hit and run accident.
The bottom line is that even if your accident is minor, you must follow the law. In most states this means:
- Stop your car right away
- Call the police
- Provide your contact information
- Provide your driver’s license and vehicle registration
Provide your insurance policy information
And don’t forget to get a copy of the police report.
If you want to learn about your insurance coverage should you be involved in a hit and run accident, Official Auto Insurance can help. Use our form to shop around for the best rates and learn how different insurance companies handle hit and run accidents.