Arizona Hit-and-Run Car Accidents

How to handle a hit-and-run car crash in Arizona

What to do when the driver flees the scene without stopping

Hit-and-run accidents are a serious offense in Arizona. If a person leaves the scene of an accident without stopping, it could result in hefty fines and imprisonment. Learn what to do (and what NOT to do) if you find yourself involved in a hit-and-run.

A hit-and-run accident is when a driver hits another car, person, or piece of property and then flees the scene without stopping to provide their personal information. In Arizona, this can result in serious criminal charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.

This article looks at the frequency of hit-and-run accidents, the laws that apply, and what to do if you’re involved in a hit-and-run car crash in Arizona.

Hit-and-run statistics

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were 15,014 hit-and-run accidents in 2017. Of those, 64 resulted in fatalities and 2,900 resulted in injuries. A majority (12,050) resulted in property damage only.

The two most likely victims of hit-and-run accidents are pedestrians and cyclists. Car accidents involving multiple vehicles generally result in damage significant enough to prevent either drivers from being able to flee the scene.

The high rate of hit-and-run accidents in Arizona is due, in part, to the fact that the state has grown rapidly. In the last 7 years, Arizona has increased by almost 800,000 drivers.

Penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident

Under Arizona law, a driver is legally obligated to stop and take certain actions after an accident. The actions that drivers must take and the penalties for failing to take those actions depend on the nature of the accident:

  • An accident resulting in damage to a non-vehicle (such as a fence): After striking non-vehicle property, drivers must take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner of the property and provide their personal information (name, insurance, and registration number). Failing to do so is a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, 1 year of probation, and a $500 fine (plus surcharges).
  • An accident that involves hitting a parked vehicle: Drivers who hit a parked car must either locate the owner of the parked car and provide their personal information, or leave a note that includes their personal information. Failing to do so is a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, 1 year of probation, and a $500 fine (plus surcharges)
  • An accident that only involves vehicle damage: If an accident only results in vehicle damage, all drivers involved must stop and exchange personal information with the other drivers and also render aid if necessary. Failing to do so results in a class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 4 months in jail, 2 years of probation, and a $750 fine (plus surcharges).
  • An accident that results in a non-serious injury: In an accident that results in a non-serious injury, drivers must stop and provide their personal information (to the other drivers or responding officer) and render aid if necessary. Failing to do so is a class 5 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 2.5 years in prison, and the revocation of the driver’s license for 3 years. 
  • An accident that results in a serious injury or death: In an accident that results in serious injury or death, drivers must stop and provide their personal information (to the other drivers or responding officer) and render aid if necessary. Failing to do so results in a class 2 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 12.5 years in prison, and the revocation of the driver’s license for 10 years. If the driver didn’t cause the accident, but was only involved in the accident, the driver can be charged with class 3 felony for failing to stop and provide their personal information. A class 3 felony carries a maximum penalty of 8.75 years in prison, and the revocation of the driver’s license for 5 years).

Arizona Penalties for Hit-and-Run Crashes
Type of accident Maximum penalty for fleeing the scene Statute
Damage to non-vehicle 30 days jail, 1 year probation, $500 fine (plus surcharges) A.R.S. § 28-665
Damage to parked vehicle 30 days jail, 1 year probation, $500 fine (plus surcharges) A.R.S. § 28-664
Property damage only 4 months in jail, 2 years of probation, $750 fine (plus surcharges) A.R.S. § 28-662
Non-serious injury 2.5 years prison (more if prior felony conviction), loss of driver’s license for 3 years A.R.S. § 28-661
Serious injury or death (where you did not cause the accident) 8.75 years (or more if prior felony conviction), loss of driver’s license for 5 years A.R.S. § 28-661
Serious injury or death (where you caused the accident) 12.5 years (or more if prior felony conviction), loss of driver’s license for 10 years A.R.S. § 28-661

Why wouldn’t a driver stop?

There are many reasons why a driver might flee the scene of an accident. Some of the more common reasons include:

  • The driver is intoxicated or driving under the influence of drugs
  • The driver is driving with a suspended license
  • The driver doesn’t have car insurance
  • There is an outstanding warrant for the driver’s arrest
  • The car is stolen

What should you do if you fled the scene of an accident?

While unequivocally the wrong decision, fleeing the scene of an accident that you caused is a common impulse. You may fear that the other driver will retaliate if you stop. Or, you may have tried to move your vehicle to a safe spot and lost track of the other vehicle in the process. Or, maybe you didn’t even realize you struck another vehicle until later.

Whatever the reason, fleeing the scene of an accident is serious. In such a case, we recommend you contact an Arizona criminal defense attorney to talk about how to make things right while still protecting your legal rights.

What to do if you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident?

If you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, your instinct might be to chase after the driver. This isn’t a good idea. In addition to putting yourself and others at risk, you stand a good chance of being pulled over for speeding.

Instead, take a deep breath and move your vehicle to a safe spot off the road, if possible.

Once you’re safe, call the police and report the accident. While waiting for the police to arrive, write down any information that you can remember about the other driver and vehicle, including:

  • The vehicle make and model
  • The license plate number and/or state
  • The color of the vehicle
  • Any distinguishing features (damage, rust, bumper stickers, etc.)
  • A physical description of the driver (man or woman, tall or short, etc.)
  • Contact information for any witnesses
Enjuris tip: You should keep a post-accident report form in your glove box to fill out after a hit and run accident.

Finally, you’ll want to contact your insurance company and file a claim. Arizona is a no-fault insurance state, which means the one who causes the accident is liable to pay for your damages.

Of course, if you can’t locate the other driver, filing a claim becomes more complicated. Your policy might still provide coverage assuming you purchased the necessary optional coverage. Examples of optional coverage that might cover your damages includes:

  • Uninsured motorist (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
  • Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage: provides up to $10,000 in coverage regardless of who’s at fault (what’s covered depends on the specific policy)
  • MedPay coverage: provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers regardless of who is at fault

Finally, if you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident, consider contacting an experienced Arizona personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can help you understand your recovery options if the other driver can’t be located, or help you take legal action if the driver is eventually found. 

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