Leaving the scene of a car crash is illegal in Texas. As such, drivers who commit a hit-and-run can face criminal charges. In addition, if a car accident victim files a civil lawsuit against the liable driver, the hit and run itself can be used as evidence of their fault in the crash.
You can learn more about the consequences of a hit-and-run accident in Texas below.
What Are the Penalties for Committing a Hit and Run in Texas?
Though hit and runs are crimes in Texas, the offense’s degree and associated consequences depend on what happened during the accident.
If the Driver Injured or Killed Someone
Severely injuring a person in a hit and run is a third-degree felony, while a resulting death elevates the crime to a second-degree felony. Third-degree felonies can lead to two to 10 years of imprisonment, while second-degree felonies can go up to 20 years. Both of these charges may also come with fines up to $10,000.
However, if the victim was not severely injured, the hit-and-run driver may only face a year in county jail or up to five years in state prison. They may also face a fine of up to $5,000.
If the Driver Damaged a Vehicle, Fixture, or Other Property
A hit-and-run driver who only damages cars or other structures and property can receive a Class C misdemeanor if the damage costs less than $200. However, if the damage costs over that amount, the offense will become a Class B misdemeanor. Class Cs are punishable by a $500 fine, while Class Bs can have up to $2,000 fines and jail time of up to six months.
With all these punishments in mind, it would be in everyone’s best interest to follow the law and stay at the scene following a crash.
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What Duties do Texas Motorists Have After a Car Accident?
Texas’ transportation laws require all involved drivers to follow these steps after a collision:
- Stop the vehicle immediately or at least as close to the crash as possible.
- Check if the people involved suffered injuries – if they are hurt, make sure they receive medical assistance.
- Move the vehicles to a safer location to avoid obstructing traffic. If this is not possible, use road flares to alert other motorists.
- Exchange names, contact information, licenses, car registration, and insurance details with the other driver or person.
Moreover, involved parties should also contact the police as soon as possible if:
- There are injuries or deaths.
- A driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- You need help moving the vehicles to a safer location.
- A driver is uninsured or fled the scene.
How does a Hit and Run Affect Liability in a Car Accident Claim or Lawsuit?
Because Texas drivers have duties to fulfill after a car crash, you can consider the hit and run a negligent act on their part. It can further prove their liability in a claim or lawsuit for damages. After all, when you file an action based on negligence, you have to prove that:
- The other party had a legal duty owed to you.
- They breached that duty.
- Their breach of that duty led to your injuries.
However, the driver responsible is never found or identified in some hit-and-run cases. If this happens in your case, you would have to seek compensation through your own insurance coverage, such as an uninsured motorist (UM) policy.
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What Other Ways Can a Hit and Run Affect a Car Accident Case?
Aside from being crucial evidence in an accident settlement, a hit and run can also move your deadline for filing a lawsuit. In a typical Texas personal injury case, you would only have up to two years from the collision date to file a lawsuit (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003). However, Texas’ civil practice limitation laws also have tolling exceptions that can extend this time limit.
For instance, if the authorities discover that the hit-and-run driver fled for another state, your case’s statute of limitations would only begin when they return to Texas. You could work with a lawyer to determine how much time you have.
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Our Hit-and-Run Accident Attorneys Are Ready to Help You
After a Texas hit-and-run accident, you have the right to seek compensation from the driver responsible. To get started, you can reach out to our team at Loncar Lyon Jenkins. Our car accident lawyers have handled hit-and-run settlements throughout Texas and can provide legal assistance for your situation.
Our legal team has over 30 years of experience with personal injury and wrongful death cases. If you want to discuss the consequences of a hit-and-run accident and your legal options for holding another driver accountable, call (877) 239-4878 for a free consultation.