It’s illegal in Alabama to leave the scene of an accident
Leaving the scene of an accident in Alabama is considered a hit-and-run, and it’s illegal.
A “hit and run” is an accident where the driver knowingly leaves the scene without providing contact information to the victim.
Every year there are roughly 700,000 hit-and-run crashes in the United States. Alabama consistently ranks somewhere near the 15th worst state for hit-and-run car accidents.
Whether you’re the victim or perpetrator of a hit-and-run, we’re here to help.
How do I avoid a hit-and-run charge in Alabama?
Most people understand that a hit-and-run refers to a crash in which one of the parties involved fails to stop at the scene of the accident. But, as is often the case with the law, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.
To avoid a hit-and-run charge in Alabama, you need to do 3 things after an accident that results in injury, death, or property damage:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene of the collision (or as close to the scene as possible),
- Give your name, address, and the registration number of your vehicle to the other drivers involved (you must also show your driver’s license upon request), and
- Render reasonable assistance to any person injured (i.e. call an ambulance).
If the vehicle you hit is unattended, you have to take 2 steps to avoid a hit-and-run charge:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene of the crash (or as close to the scene as possible), and
- Locate and notify the owner of the vehicle or leave a note with your contact information in a conspicuous place on the vehicle.
Similarly, if you hit a fixed object (such as a fence or utility pole), you must take 2 steps to avoid a hit-and-run charge:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene (or as close to the scene as possible), and
- Take reasonable steps to locate the owner or person in charge of the property and give them your name, address, and the registration number of your vehicle (you must also show the person your driver’s license upon request).
Do I need to report a car accident?
Alabama requires the driver of any motor vehicle involved in a car accident to report the crash to the local police as soon as possible if the collision results in injury or death.
In addition to being required by law in some circumstances, it’s generally a good idea to call the police after an accident because police can help prevent any post-accident road rage incidents. What’s more, the police can collect information, investigate a crash, and draft an official report that could prove helpful if you later decide to file a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim.
What are the penalties for fleeing the scene of a crash?
Think twice before fleeing a crash scene in Alabama because every person found guilty of a hit-and-run will be punished as follows:
|Alabama hit-and-run penalties|
|An accident that results in property damage only||Class A misdemeanor||Fine not more than $6,000 and/or up to 1 year in prison|
|An accident that results in injury or death||Class C felony||1-10 years in prison|
What steps should I take if I fled the scene of a car accident?
There are all sorts of reasons you might drive away from a crash or collision that you were involved in:
- You were intoxicated or driving under the influence of drugs
- You were driving with a suspended license
- You didn’t have car insurance
- There is an outstanding warrant for your arrest
- You feared retaliation from the person you hit
Although the reasons for fleeing are typically selfish, there are some cases in which the trauma of being involved in a car accident causes the driver to behave in a manner they otherwise would not.
As Dr. Thomas Dalby, a professor of Psychology at the University of Calgary and forensics expert in the area of hit-and-runs, explained:
“There is a small, legitimate subsection where we see an adrenaline rush kick in, which can lead to confusion and panic.”
Regardless of the reason, fleeing the scene of an accident is always the wrong choice. If you recently failed to stop after a crash, we recommend that you take the following 2 steps to avoid making the problem worse:
- Call your local police station and report the incident, and
- Contact an Alabama hit-and-run defense attorney to talk about your options and legal rights.
What steps should I take if I’m the victim of a hit-and-run accident?
If you’re injured in a car accident and the other driver drove away, you may understandably be overwhelmed and angry. With that in mind, let’s look at the steps you should definitely NOT take before we look at the steps you SHOULD take following a hit-and-run:
- DON’T chase after a fleeing driver. Not only is chasing after a fleeing driver extremely dangerous, but you may miss key witnesses if you leave the scene.
- DON’T leave the scene before calling the police. If it’s safe to do so, stay at the scene and wait for the police to arrive. Going home or even to the hospital before contacting the police may cause the police to doubt your story.
As for what you should do, try to stay calm and:
- Contact emergency services. If you’re injured, you’ll want to call an ambulance right away. You’ll also want to contact the police and explain that you were involved in a hit and run.
- Collect information. Gather as much information about the driver, car, and accident as possible (e.g., license plate number, a description of the vehicle, the direction the vehicle was headed, as well as photos of the accident scene and any damages).
- Locate witnesses. Did anybody see the accident? Identify any witnesses and collect their contact information. When the police arrive, be sure to tell the police about the witnesses.
How do I recover damages if I’m the victim of a hit-and-run accident?
If the police are able to track down the person who fled the scene, you can sue them or file an insurance claim with their insurance company (assuming they caused the accident).
The family of Kamerynn Young filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the perpetrator and his employer (the perpetrator was driving a company vehicle at the time of the crash). The lawsuit is currently pending.
Unfortunately, hit-and-run drivers are often not found. If this is the case, your insurance policy may still provide coverage.
Examples of optional coverage that might cover hit-and-run damages include:
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving an uninsured driver or a driver who can’t be located.
- MedPay coverage. MedPay coverage provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers regardless of who is at fault.