Atlanta Hit and Run Accidents
Every state has very strict hit and run accident laws, and Georgia’s hit and run laws stipulate the precise duties and responsibilities, as well possible penalties, of drivers who are involved in any kind of vehicular accident. Of course, when a party of an accident flees the scene, there can be dire consequences. We will take a comprehensive overview of what exactly you should do when you get in an accident, the various stipulations attached with hit and run accidents, the penalties for hit and run and what you can do if you are a victim, or culprit, of a hit and run accident.
Georgia Hit and Run Accident Law
In the state of Georgia, hit and run offenses or leaving the scene of an accident, are extremely serious traffic offenses. Many times, these offenses contain penalties that are harsher than the penalties associated with a DUI. This is primarily because a hit and run is defined as a crime of specific intent, which indicates the fact a person must make the cognizant decision to leave an accident scene.
Georgia law states that every driver has the legal obligation to stop or return to a scene of an accident/collision, and this is even more amplified if the accident involves any kind of injury or death. It’s technically the failure to stop/return to the accident that constitutes a hit and run, but there are also other legal obligations for a driver who is in an accident to abide by, including providing the following information to the other party and/or law enforcement officer:
- Your name
- Registration number of the vehicle driven
- Your driver’s license number
The following are the complete steps to take immediately after you are in an accident:
- Stop your car: Survey the scene and make sure to notice if anyone has been injured, and if someone is injured help them in what you deem the most reasonable manner.
- Call the police: Getting a record of what happened is vital to every accident.
- Give the other party your address and name: This can include your registration, insurance information, and the above list.
- Find witnesses to the accident.
- Call your, and possibly the other driver’s, insurance company
Stipulations Involved with Hit and Run Accidents
There are several stipulations involved with hit and run accidents that every driver needs to know about - mainly because accidents come in all different magnitudes and circumstances.
One of the most common forms of hit and run accidents is when someone hits a parked car or other type of property when no one else is around. If you do strike a parked vehicle or property, you need to make sure you leave a note. If you’ve damaged or destroyed more than $1,000 of property, you can face much more serious penalties for hit and run, and with traffic cameras so abundant across Georgia, it is almost nearly impossible to get away with this kind of crime.
Another common stipulation with hit and run accidents is when a non-driver is injured. The law states that no matter who is injured in an accident it is the responsibility of the driver who created the accident to call 911. This then leads to how you should help an injured victim. This can be a little bit tricky because helping out is the honorable thing to do, but if you aren’t trained to professionally help someone, you could potentially do further harm and create more liability issues.
When a pet is injured, it is considered to be damaged property, so if you do hit a pet on the road, you are required to pull over, notify the owner and call the police. This situation also gets tricky very quickly because it’s the honorable thing to help the injured pet as best as you can and bring it to safety, but if you put the pet in your car then you are legally responsible for getting the animal medical treatment. In this situation, it’s sometimes best to call 911 and wait for help to come assist the pet.
There are a few exceptions for leaving a scene of an accident, including the following circumstances:
- Hit and run laws only apply to the drivers (passengers are not included)
- When a driver is incapacitated and can not exchange information or give aid they are not punished for not doing so
If the accident scene poses a danger to the driver, like a potential explosion, then moving away from the scene is valid.
There are various penalties for hit and run accidents in the state of Georgia, and in general there is either misdemeanor or felony hit and run penalties.
A misdemeanor hit and run accident is when no one is injured and there is only property damage, and in Georgia there is a three-strike system that goes along with misdemeanor hit and run penalties. If it’s your first hit and run offense, you will be charged with paying the costs of the damages of the accident, as well as a sentence of $300-$1,000 fines as well as one year in jail. If you are convicted of a second misdemeanor hit and run charge within five years of your first charge, then you’ll be looking at a fine of $600-$1,000 as well as up to one year in jail. For three and more hit and run charges within a five-year span, there are fines of $1,000 and a sentence of one year in jail.
It’s also important to know that if you are convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run charge, you will have to face a driver’s license suspension of at least four months, but depending on your driver’s record you may be able to get a restricted license. If you have prior offenses on your driver’s record, then you more than likely will face a hard suspension of your license, in which you will not have a license at all.
Misdemeanor hit and run charges also have catastrophic effects on a person’s insurance.
When it comes to a felony hit and run there are much more severe penalties, and this is because a felony hit and run happens when someone gets injured or killed. In this situation, the culprit is likely to face jail time and fines up to $10,000. If someone does in fact die as a result of the accident then the culprit will be charged with first-degree homicide by vehicle and face a sentence of 1 to 5 years, or more, in prison.
It’s also important to understand that warrants for arrest are regularly issued to those who conduct hit and run offenses, and this happens through in-depth investigations by the police that utilize witnesses, available surveillance and much more. Once the police can successfully identify a culprit of a hit and run a warrant will be issued and they will actively proceed to locate the individual.
What to do if you’re the victim of a hit and run driver
If you end up being the victim of a hit and run, the first thing you must do is remain calm and stop/park your vehicle in a safe place, and then do the following:
- Record any information you can about the car that struck you to the best of your ability. If you can get the full license plate number that’s the best thing you can do, but even a partial plate number along with a good description of the vehicle and help the police start their search.
- Call 911 and request that the police meet you at accident scene, and include the time and conditions of the accident.
- If you are injured you will want to seek medical attention through your 911 call, and then remain calm inside your vehicle until the fire truck or ambulance arrives.
- If you are not injured then you should get out of your vehicle and search for witnesses who could potentially help you with insurance issues, especially if the culprit isn’t apprehended.
If you find yourself in the situation in which you return to your parked car and there is clearly damage with no note, then you must call 911 and get the police over to your vehicle so that they can begin conducting their investigation as soon as possible.
What to do if You’re Convicted of a Hit and Run Accident
Most of the time, a driver who conducts a hit and run or flees the scene of a car accident, has something serious to hide, and this can sometimes be evidence of DUI or other illicit behavior like a poor driving history or criminal record.
Whatever the reason a person may have for conducting a hit and run, it doesn’t mean things are hopeless when they are caught. There are many ways to defend one’s rights in this situation, and getting the charges reduced to less serious offenses is typically the best route to take, but it requires an experienced attorney who knows how to make Georgia’s hit and run laws work for their clients’ favor.
Every hit and run case is different, but no matter how severe the case is fleeing the scene of an accident in Georgia is always a major offense and is something that should be avoided at all costs, because in the end if you do flee an accident scene it could potentially cost you much more than any damage costs would.