Hit and run accidents are a serious offense. In Colorado, they can result in extended prison sentences. In today’s blog, we will take a look at what counts as a hit and run, what you should do if you find yourself involved in one, including what some of the penalties are for people who have committed one. In either case, Hadfield Stieben & Doutt can help answer any of your questions. Just contact our team of expert car accident lawyers to schedule your free consultation at our Fort Collins office. On that note, let’s take a look at the Colorado laws around hit-and-run accidents.
What Counts as a Hit & Run Accident?
Generally speaking, if you are involved in a car accident in Colorado, it is your obligation to stay at the scene of the accident until law enforcement officials arrive. You can (and should) move a small distance from the accident if leaving vehicles will obstruct traffic or increase the danger to yourself or others on the road. Moreover, you are permitted to leave the scene for the following reasons:
- You leave in order to lawfully report the accident to law enforcement,
- There is no one in the other vehicle, or
- You yourself are badly injured and in need of immediate medical attention.
Beyond these situations, you are obligated to stay at the scene. A failure to do so will constitute a hit-and-run accident. In short, a hit and run is when a driver hits another car, a person, an animal, or a property and fails to provide their insurance information or render aid before leaving the scene.
How Serious Is a Hit & Run Accident?
Colorado law takes hit and runs very seriously. Take it from our team of car accident lawyers: hit and runs are a serious criminal charge that can range from a misdemeanor to a felony. Serious prison time can even result from a hit-and-run accident. According to the Colorado General Assembly, these are the potential penalties one could face after committing a hit-and-run:
- With an accident that results in injury, if the driver flees without rendering aid (more about this below), the result could be a Class One misdemeanor conviction, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and $5,000 in fines. If the victim’s injuries were serious, it could be a Class Five felony punishable by one to three years in prison and fines reaching $500,000.
- In an accident that involves death, if the driver flees without rendering aid to a victim, it is a Class Three felony punishable by four to 12 years in prison and fines reaching up to $750,000.
- In accidents involving property damage, it’s a Class Two misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Additionally, If you are convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, the DMV will add 12 points to your Colorado driving record and revoke your license. Courts will also award victim restitution for the medical bills, car repairs, or other losses that the victim suffers. Clearly, Colorado law doesn’t mess around with hit and run accidents. Be sure to know the law and take the appropriate steps. On that note, let’s look at what you should do if you find yourself involved in a hit and run accident.
What to Do
If you’re involved in a hit and run accident, there are some essential steps to remember to take. Firstly, keep in mind that even if you are merely witness to an accident, it is your responsibility to provide aid whenever possible. To the extent that it’s practical, it is your duty to provide assistance to injured persons. Such reasonable assistance includes taking the victim to a doctor or hospital or making arrangements for someone to do so. Keeping yourself and others safe is paramount.
If you yourself are involved in the hit and run, then what you do next depends on the nature of the accident. If you hit something, such as a vehicle or someone else’s property, then it is your responsibility to locate and notify the operator or owner of the vehicle or other property. If this is not possible, then you should securely attach a notice to the property in a conspicuous place.
The notice must inform the owner of:
- Your name,
- Your address, and
- The registration number of the vehicle you were driving.
Importantly, you must also report the accident to the police and return to the accident scene if they ask you to.
If there are other people involved in the hit and run where the other person leaves the scene, then remember to stay calm and check on everyone involved in the accident. State laws require that all drivers, not just the perpetrators, stay at the scene and call the police; this way, you can preserve the official record for your insurance company. Provide basic first aid and wait for emergency medical services to arrive. Try to get your vehicle toward the side of the road if possible. Next, you will want to alert the police and emergency medical services. While you wait for them to arrive, collect information and see if you can find any evidence that will be significant to your insurance company, which you will want to contact to fill out an insurance claim ASAP.
Finally, be sure to contact a trusted car accident lawyer to help you navigate this process. Any car accident is stressful, but hits and runs are especially so. Don’t go at it alone.
Call Your Fort Collins Car Accident Lawyers
If you or someone you know was involved in a hit-and-run, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
We proudly serve communities throughout Northern Colorado. Please reach out to Hadfield Stieben and Doutt with any questions or concerns you may have.