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 AAA1, as many as 12% of drivers choose to leave the scene of a car accident after a collision.

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.

What Are Colorado Laws for Hit and Runs?

The Colorado laws for a hit and run cover everything from misdemeanor offenses to criminal offenses. Here is a breakdown of requirements for specific traffic infractions:

1. Duty To Give Notice, Information, and Aid

In serious accidents, drivers must remain at the scene and fulfill the requirements of  §42-4-16032, which includes getting the driver’s name, address, registration, and license number. Drivers must help the injured person and arrange transportation to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment or if the injured person requests the transport.

Drivers must follow these guidelines if the accident involves:

  • Injury, Serious Bodily Injury, and Death – If an accident resulted in injury, serious injury, or death, the driver must stop at the scene or as close as possible. A driver may leave the scene to report the accident and then return. § 42-4-16013
  • Damage to Another Vehicle – When an accident results in vehicle damage only, the driver must stop and return to the accident scene without obstructing traffic more than necessary. § 42-4-16024
  • Duty to Give Notice and Render Aid – The driver must arrange for medical treatment for injured persons and report the accident to the nearest police if none is present on the scene. § 42-4-1603

2. Duty To Report Accidents

A driver in an accident with injury or damage of any kind must report it to the police. If required by the police, a person must remain at the scene of the accident until officials arrive to investigate. § 42-4-16065

This law applies in these incidents:

  • Unattended Vehicle – The driver must locate the vehicle owner or leave their name, address, and vehicle registration number in a conspicuous place in or on the vehicle. § 42-4-16046
  • Property Damage – When an accident damages fixtures or traffic control devices, the driver must notify the appropriate road authority with their name, address, and vehicle registration number. § 42-4-16057

3. When a Driver Is Unable To Give Notice or Make a Written Report

If a driver is unable to report an incident, § 42-4-16078 must be followed.

  • Alternative Reporting – If a driver is too injured to report an accident, another occupant of the vehicle must report it.

What Are the Criminal Penalties for Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident in Colorado?

The criminal penalties for leaving the scene of a car accident in Colorado vary based on the severity of the injuries and damages sustained in the accident.

 Type of Injury Category of Offense Possible Penalty
 Injury Class 1 misdemeanor 18 months jail, $5,000 fine
 Serious Bodily Injury Class 4 felony 6 years prison, $500,000 fine
 Death Class 3 felony 12 years prison, $750,000 fine
 No Injuries/Property Damage Only Class 2 traffic misdemeanor 90 days jail, $300 fine

In addition to hit and run charges, leaving the scene of an accident in Colorado may result in victim restitution and driver’s license suspension. If convicted of an offense, a person may receive a sentence within the range of possible penalties.

What Are Leaving the Scene of an Accident Colorado Civil Penalties?

Civil penalties for leaving the scene of an accident include any damages that result from your actions. For example, suppose a person cannot secure timely medical care, resulting in more severe injuries. In that case, you are liable because you left the scene of the accident instead of helping them get the care they needed. Even if there are no injuries, you must remain at the accident scene.

In addition, leaving the scene of an accident is a reckless disregard for the safety of others and considered willful and wanton conduct for which the victim may request punitive damages.

RELATED: Punitive Damages: How Much Should You Ask For?

Not only does leaving the scene of an accident make the driver liable for resulting damages, but it also paints them in a bad light in terms of fault for the accident. Any driver is liable for damages when they cause an accident. Fleeing the scene may be treated as strong evidence of a guilty conscience and an admission of fault.

What Should You Do if the Responsible Party Flees the Scene After an Accident?

If the responsible party flees the scene after a car accident, you should gather any information. A license plate number, make and model of the vehicle, and driver’s description may prove invaluable. You should contact law enforcement right away.

Law enforcement can investigate using nearby video that may be available, being on the lookout for damaged vehicles, and talking to any witnesses that may be available. Some hit-and-run accidents can be solved. Contacting the police immediately gives you the best chance to hold the wrongdoer accountable for their actions.

How Can a Lawyer Help You After a Colorado Hit and Run Accident?

A Colorado personal injury lawyer can help you investigate the hit and run accident and access compensation that may be available to you. If the offender is found, your lawyer can ensure that all measures are taken to claim the compensation you deserve for the accident itself, as well as for the consequences of the other driver’s choice to hit and run.

Your lawyer can also help you evaluate your insurance coverage and damages and assist with your compensation claim. When you’re the victim of a hit and run, an attorney can help you respond in the best possible way and protect your rights.

Car Accident Lawyers for Hit and Run Victims

At Bachus & Schanker, justice is our passion. We are here to help individuals in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Englewood, and throughout Colorado who have been injured by the actions of others. If you are the victim of a hit and run, contact our lawyers for a free consultation about your case.

Sources:

1AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (FTS). (April 2018).  Hit-and-Run Crashes: Prevalence, Contributing Factors and Countermeasures. Retrieved 20 January 2022.

2C.R.S. 42-4-1603

3C.R.S. 42-4-1601

4C.R.S. 42-4-1602

5C.R.S. 42-4-1606

6C.R.S. 42-4-1604

7C.R.S. 42-4-1605

8C.R.S. 42-4-1607

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