WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU LEAVE THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT?
There are strict penalties for neglectful drivers involved in a hit-and-run under Colorado law. Unfortunately, according to car accident statistics from 2020, there were 35,766 fatal accidents with 38,824 deaths. Of these, hit-and-run accidents accounted for seven percent of fatalities. Hit-and-run accidents increased by 26 percent for 2020 as well.
If you’re a victim of a hit-and-run Colorado accident or charged with leaving the scene of an accident, there may be severe consequences. Our auto accident attorneys explain what constitutes a misdemeanor traffic offense versus a felony hit-and-run.
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What Is a Hit-And-Run Car Accident?
A hit-and-run car accident occurs when a driver involved in a car accident doesn’t fulfill their obligations after the accident. Colorado law requires a driver to stop, arrange for medical aid if there is bodily injury, and report the accident to law enforcement. All parties involved in an accident have legal requirements to fulfill before leaving the scene.
Why Do Hit-And-Run Accidents Happen?
There are several reasons why hit-and-run accidents occur, including the following:
- Uninsured drivers – All vehicle owners in Colorado are required to have minimum insurance coverage to operate a vehicle legally, especially liability insurance
- Drunk driving – Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs beyond legal limits
- Driving without a license – When you drive and do not have a license or your license is suspended, there are legal consequences
- Driving a borrowed vehicle – Some people may panic because they borrowed a car and are afraid of the owner finding out
- Driving a stolen vehicle – The driver attempts to avoid being caught in the illegal activity they committed prior to the accident
- In possession of stolen property – Being caught with stolen property can cause someone to flee from an accident
- In possession of illegal substances – Some people may fear being caught with illegal substances when they know they are not supposed to have them
- Fear of financial responsibility – Colorado is an at-fault state, meaning the driver primarily or mostly responsible for your injuries and damages must pay for them
What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
Each person involved in a car accident has a duty of care and specific steps to follow, including:
- Check all drivers and passengers for injuries
- Call 911 to request medical assistance and report the accident to the police
- Follow all instructions given by law enforcement
- Exchange contact and insurance information with the other party
- Obtain contact details from any witnesses
- Take pictures of the accident and damages, ensuring you get pictures that include all vehicles’ make, model, and license place
- File a police report
- Notify your insurance company you were in an accident and provide them with the other person’s insurance information
- Schedule a free consultation with a car accident attorney to discuss your legal options, rights, and potential compensation
Is leaving The Scene Of An Accident Illegal?
All parties involved in an accident have legal requirements to fulfill before leaving the scene. When someone flees the scene of a car accident, they are breaking the law. The criminal charges they could face can include:
- Class 1 Misdemeanor Traffic Offense – One or more persons were injured in the accident
- Class 2 Misdemeanor Traffic Offense – Only property damage occurred, and there were no injuries
- Class 3 Felony – One or more persons died either during the accident or from complications from their injuries
- Class 5 Felony – There were severe injuries to one or more people
If someone is convicted and found guilty of one of these offenses, they could face fines and jail time that will vary in length based on the offense.
Can I Leave The Scene Of An Accident If There Were No Injuries?
No, you cannot leave the scene of an accident, even when there are no injuries. The law requires you to report the accident by calling the police.
What To Do If The Responsible Party Flees The Scene of a Car Accident?
If the responsible party flees the scene of a car accident, it is important to remain at the scene and gather as much information as possible. This includes taking pictures, noting any details about license plates or vehicles involved, and reporting the incident to law enforcement by calling 911.
Notify them you have been involved in a hit-and-run car accident. If you require medical care, inform the 911 operator. Additionally, obtain contact details from any witnesses. Once you can do so, notify your insurance company of the accident.
It is also beneficial to consult with a hit-and-run lawyer. While they may not be able to file an injury claim against the responsible party until they are located, they might provide access to valuable resources and victim advocates. Both of these things can help provide the support you need, especially if you were seriously injured or lost a loved one.
Colorado Laws For Hit-And-Run Car Accidents
- CRS 42-4-1601 – Accidents Involving Death or Personal Injuries – Duties
- CRS 42-4-1602 – Accidents Involving Damage – Duties
- CRS 42-4-1603 – Duty to Give Notice, Information, and Aid
- CRS 42-4-1604 – Duty Upon Striking Unattended Vehicle or Other Property
- CRS 42-4-1605 – Duty Upon Striking Highway Fixtures or Traffic Control Devices
- CRS 42-4-1606 – Duty to Report Accidents
- CRS 42-4-1607 – When Driver Unable to Give Notice or Make Written Report
What Are The Consequences Of a Hit-And-Run Accident?
- Criminal charges
- Jail time
- License suspension/revocation
- Civil lawsuit
Injury and Serious Bodily Injury
Injury is physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Serious bodily injury is a more severe form of injury that involves a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairments of the function of a bodily member or organ.
Hit-and-run accidents often result in property damage. This can include damage to cars, other personal property, buildings, and public infrastructure, such as street signs or curbs. In most cases, the responsible party or their insurance company is liable for any damages incurred due to a hit-and-run accident.
In some cases, a hit-and-run accident may result in death. In addition to any criminal repercussions, those affected by the death may be able to file a civil suit against the responsible party and their insurance provider for wrongful death compensation.
There are other consequences of a hit-and-run accident that include civil penalties, such as:
- Public embarrassment
- Criminal record
- Financial responsibility for all damages
- Potential to lose job
- Loss of auto insurance or increased premiums
Common Defenses To Hit-And-Run Charges
- Lack of intent where the driver believed they were not at fault
- Driver had no knowledge that an accident occurred
- Insufficient evidence to prove evidence beyond a reasonable doubt
- Mistaken identity by witnesses or other parties present
Statute of Limitations For Hit-And-Run Claim in Colorado
In Colorado, a civil personal injury claim relating to an automobile accident must be filed within three years from the date of the incident. In cases where there is a death, the statute of limitations is only two years. Therefore, if you were involved in a hit-and-run crash, it is crucial to seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to ensure your rights are protected.
How Can a Lawyer Help You after a Colorado hit-and-run accident?
Navigating the complexities of a Colorado hit-and-run accident can be difficult to handle on your own. At Bachus & Schanker, we are with you every step of the way. We provide our clients access to our group of Victim’s Advocates, who provide support for victims of crime, as well as ensure you have access to resources that can benefit you and your family the most.
In addition, our personal injury lawyers thoroughly evaluate your hit-and-run case, inform you of your legal rights, help collect evidence related to your claim, and work with insurance companies to reach a fair settlement. Should the police find the responsible party, we also represent your interests in your claim against their insurance company and, if necessary, represent you in court.
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Bishop, L. (2023). Car Accident Statistics: Fatalities, Injuries and Top Risk Factors.
CRS 13-21-111. (2019).
CRS 42-4-1601. (2023).
CRS 42-4-1602. (2020).
CRS 42-4-1603. (2023).
CRS 42-4-1604. (2023).
CRS 42-4-1605. (2023).
CRS 42-4-1606. (2021).
CRS 42-4-1607. (2023).
Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus
4.6 ★★★★★ 1,461 Google Reviews
Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.