Millions of automobile accidents occur in the United States every year, many of which end or ruin the lives of the people involved. Accidents happen quickly and panic usually ensues, and if that's the reason you fled an accident scene, although your emotional state would be understandable, the act is still criminal. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially one where bodily harm took place, could mean felony charges for you. Nonetheless, you need to do the right thing at some point, as frightened as you might be.
Don't Delay Seeking Medical Care, If You Need It
Injuries sustained in an accident can be very serious, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time the crash occurred. Adrenaline may have masked your pain, especially since you fled. If you think you're hurt, go to the emergency room and seek treatment. If your vehicle was reported at the scene and the police are looking for you, hospital personnel may be required to notify authorities of your presence at the ER or when you are discharged; however, your physical well-being should be your first concern, not your legal troubles.
Consider Yourself A Fugitive
If you don't require treatment, or you do and the ER doesn't report you to the police, you're still a fugitive. Police will be looking for you and your vehicle and eventually will find you. Once you've had a chance to calm down and process what's gone down, the right thing to do should become clearer.
Contact A Car Accident Attorney, Immediately
No matter how you plan to proceed, it's vital that you call a lawyer right away. What you tell them is protected under attorney-client privilege, and at the very least, you'll get some sound legal advice. If you have a regular family or personal attorney, let them talk you into acting responsibly and according to the law. If the lawyer you call is a stranger, still, they will have your best interests in mind and are bound to represent you to the fullest of their abilities. Therefore, you should consider an auto accident attorney your only option moving forward. Make arrangements to see them as soon as possible.
Document Everything You Can Remember
Even if you were at fault, your auto accident attorney needs to know every single detail, including what led up to the crash and everything you did thereafter. If you know you weren't responsible for the accident, you're still going to have to prove it. Jot down the most significant information, like what led to the collision, what lane you were in, if you were traveling or stopped, and anything else you can think of, including weather and road conditions.
If, for any reason, you feared for your own safety immediately following the accident, such as not knowing if a vehicle fire would lead to an explosion, your actions (fleeing the scene) may be excusable under the law. Otherwise, when bodily injury occurs, the law expects you to contact 911 so that help for the victim(s) ensues as quickly as it can.
Turn Yourself In, With Your Lawyer By Your Side
After meeting in person with your lawyer, you should be ready to speak with the authorities. Hit-and-run cases can be complicated, but some cases are worse than others. You might simply be processed by the police and later expected to show up at a hearing or you may be detained, especially if someone died at the scene and you're charged with vehicular homicide or a related offense. The authorities may request blood tests to check for substances in your system. If you've arrived (at the station) within a certain amount of time, they may ask you to take a breathalyzer or conduct a sobriety test on you. Oblige the requests, but only according to the advice of your lawyer.
Prepare For Your Case
Hopefully, the accident wasn't as bad as you thought when you first fled. Being charged with property damage is a lesser offense than if you hurt someone, but depending on the extent of the damage, you could face serious charges. Felony charges usually apply if a pedestrian, a passenger, another driver, or a cyclist was hurt, and then you fled. In the event that somebody died and you left, you're automatically hit with a felony. Since you might also face a civil suit, it's essential that you retain the services of an experienced auto accident attorney and do as they tell you.
Contact A Therapist If The Accident Was Traumatic
Most especially if you caused an accident or left the scene when another human being was harmed or killed, you've experienced trauma, too. Despite your legal liability and other complications, you may need help dealing with the repercussions of such a tragic and violent situation. You might feel guilt, too, if whoever was hurt or killed could have benefited from you staying at the scene and contacting authorities. While you may be charged as a criminal, you're likely going to feel a world of hurt, confusion, and responsibility, and that needs to be addressed at some point, to stave off post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in the future.
Car accidents turn lives into nightmares, regardless of their causes or who is responsible for them. Although nobody accepts or excuses a driver fleeing the scene, it's an understandable reaction to a horrifying scene. Take responsibility for what you've done and don't make a move without legal representation. The last thing you want to do now is make an already devastating situation even worse.