All drivers have the duty to stop and help if involved in a car crash or accident. Many times, a car accident may be simply that: an accident, where neither driver is at fault. However, if a driver leaves the scene of an accident that involves other cars or people without providing specific information about identity and insurance, he or she may end up facing criminal charges.
Keep in mind that this blog entry is not comprehensive in nature. This is only a general summary of the law as of the date the blog entry is posted. Consultation with an experienced lawyer is highly recommended before dealing with an issue that involves leaving the scene of an accident or other criminal charges. The lawyers at Oberman & Rice are available day or night at 865-249-7200.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-103 provides that a driver involved in an accident that results in injury to a person or damage to property must:
- Stop as soon as possible and stay at the scene of the crash;
- Exchange identifying information with any other drivers or people involved; and
- Wait for authorities to arrive.
The laws explain that after an accident, those who are involved are required to stop at the scene or as close to the scene as possible, but that this stop should be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. See Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 55-10-101 and 55-10-102. Thus, if there is no place to pull off the road at the immediate site of the accident, but there is a safe place very near, the drivers should not leave their vehicles in the middle of a road. Drivers should be cautious, however, about traveling more than a short distance because the relocation could be misinterpreted as leaving.
If someone is injured, a driver is required to provide reasonable assistance and to ensure that the injured person receives medical attention. Failure to do any these things may result in jail time, heavy fines and the loss of driving privileges. Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-101.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Tennessee
Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 55-10-101 and 55-10-102 include the penalties associated with leaving the scene of an accident. The penalties vary depending on whether the crash resulted in property damage or injury.
If the accident resulted in damage less than $400, a driver who leaves the scene may face Class C misdemeanor charges. Such charges carry a penalty of up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $50, and driver’s education classes.
If the damage caused was greater than $400, leaving the scene of the accident is still considered a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $50. However, because of the higher value of property damage, leaving the scene in this scenario may also result in the suspension or revocation of the driver’s license.
See Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-102.
Injury or Death
If the accident results in injury or death, leaving the scene without providing the requisite information is considered a Class A misdemeanor. This may be punishable by up to eleven months, 29 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and a suspension of the driver’s license. If the accident was severe enough that a court determines the driver should have known it would cause death, the driver who left the scene may face felony charges. These felony charges are punishable by one to six years in prison.
See Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-101.
Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyers
Leaving the scene of an accident can have a serious impact on your finances, your freedom, and your ability to retain a Tennessee driver’s license. If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, it is important to obtain legal representation immediately in order to ensure your rights are protected and to work toward driver’s license restoration. At Oberman & Rice, we believe “Your Future is Our Present Concern®.” We are committed to representing our clients with unparalleled attention and communication – 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.