Find out what to do after a hit and run — whether you're the victim or the perpetrator
A hit-and-run could be a felony in Indiana
Indiana Motor Vehicles Code (Title 9) § 9-26-1-1.1 says a driver must stop at the scene of an accident; provide their name, contact information, registration and license to all involved parties; and provide reasonable assistance (including contacting the police) in order to avoid a hit-and-run charge.
The penalties for an Indiana hit-and-run range from a Class B misdemeanor for an accident with no injuries to a Level 3 felony if there is serious injury or fatality, or if the driver was intoxicated.
A hit and run in Indiana can result in up to one year in prison and a fine up to $5,000.
The term “hit and run” refers to a situation where someone causes damage to another person or another person’s vehicle and flees the scene without stopping to provide their personal information.
In Indiana, hit-and-run perpetrators face criminal charges if caught.
But what happens if they’re not caught? Can the victim recover damages? Are there steps a perpetrator can take after they get home to avoid criminal charges?
Whether you’re the victim or the perpetrator of a hit-and-run accident, you probably have questions. Fortunately, we have answers.
Are hit-and-run accidents common in Indiana?
Hit-and-run fatalities have been on the rise across the country, even though hit-and-run accidents have generally been on the decline. Experts believe this is because large vehicles (such as SUVs) have become more common.
In Indiana, hit-and-run crashes accounted for 28,617 of the 217,077 collisions in 2018 (roughly 13%) according to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute. The highest percentage of hit-and-run accidents occurred in:
- Allen County (20.9%)
- Monroe County (19.8%)
- St. Joseph County (19.7%)
- Vigo County (19.5%)
- Lake County (18.8%)
The reasons people flee an accident are numerous, but generally, it’s more than just the fear of being held responsible for the accident:
“Most people, if they’re leaving the scene, there’s something wrong,” explained Marion County Lieutenant Richard Kivett. “Could be something as simple as maybe they’re driving while suspended or they have no license, or probably a lot of cases at night, they’re impaired either on alcohol or drugs.”
What do I need to do to avoid a hit-and-run charge in Indiana?
To avoid a hit-and-run charge, Indiana law requires that you do 3 things immediately after an accident:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident (or as close to the scene as possible),
- Provide your name, address, registration number, and license to anyone involved in the crash, and
- If the accident resulted in injury, provide reasonable assistance and contact the police.
But what happens if there’s no one in the vehicle that you hit?
If you crash into an unattended vehicle or cause damage to property other than a vehicle, you must:
- Take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of the vehicle or property, and
- If after a reasonable search you can’t find the owner, contact the local police and provide your information.
Sometimes it’s easy to find the owner of an unoccupied vehicle. If you hit a vehicle parked outside of a building, you might wait by the car for the owner to come out or have someone make an announcement inside the building.
Other times, it’s not so easy to find the owner.
The important thing to remember in these cases is that you have to contact the local police. Be prepared to provide the following information:
- Your name, address, registration number, and license information
- Identifying information for the vehicle (make, model, color, license plate number)
- The facts surrounding the accident (i.e., what happened)
What are the penalties for a hit and run?
A person who commits a hit and run is guilty, at minimum, of a Class B misdemeanor, which carries with it imprisonment for up to 180 days and a fine up to $1,000. However, penalties can become more severe depending on the nature of the hit-and-run accident.
|Indiana hit-and-run penalties|
|Hit and run - no injuries||Class B misdemeanor||Imprisonment for up to 180 days and a fine up to $1,000|
|Hit and run - bodily injury||Class A misdemeanor||Imprisonment for up to 1 year and fine up to $5,000|
|Hit and run - serious injury||Level 6 felony||Imprisonment from 6 months to 2.5 years and fine up to $10,000|
|Hit and run - death or catastrophic injury||Level 4 felony||Imprisonment from 2 years to 12 years and fine up to $10,000|
|Hit and run - while intoxicated and causing serious, catastrophic, or fatal injury||Level 3 felony||Imprisonment from 10 years to 30 years and fine up to $10,000|
Police apprehended Rickey several hours later and determined that his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. If convicted, Rickey faces imprisonment for up to 30 years and a $10,000 fine. Additionally, the family of Charles Brown is likely to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Rickey.
What should I do if I fled the scene of an accident?
Though it’s absolutely the wrong choice, there are lots of reasons why you may have left the scene of an accident without stopping to provide your personal information. Maybe you didn’t realize you hit someone until you got home. Or perhaps you were afraid the driver might assault you if you stopped.
Regardless of the reason, leaving the scene of an accident is serious. In such a case, we recommend you contact an Indiana criminal defense attorney to talk about your options and legal rights.
How do I recover damages after a hit and run?
If the hit-and-run driver is found, you can make a claim against their insurance or file a personal injury lawsuit against them. Things get trickier if you never find the hit-and-run driver. However, the following insurance policy options may still provide coverage:
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage provides coverage for damages sustained as a result of an accident involving a driver who can’t be located. All car insurance policies in Indiana must include UM coverage (unless you reject it in writing).
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage provides up to $10,000 in coverage regardless of who’s at fault. Whether or not PIP covers hit-and-run accidents depends on your specific policy.
- MedPay coverage. MedPay coverage provides coverage for medical expenses regardless of who’s at fault. Again, whether or not MedPay covers hit-and-run accidents depends on your specific policy.
What should I do if I’m the victim of a hit-and-run accident?
If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident, the last thing you should do is chase after the perpetrator. Chasing the perpetrator is dangerous and could result in criminal charges. Instead, take a deep breath and take the following 3 steps:
- Contact emergency services. If you’re injured, calling an ambulance should be your priority. Additionally, you’ll want to contact the police so they can draft a police report and start looking for the perpetrator.
- Collect information. Gather as much information about the driver, car, and accident as possible. If you’re able to get a description of the vehicle (or better yet, a license plate number), write the information down so you can provide it to the police when they arrive.
- Locate witnesses. Look around the scene. Are there any bystanders? Is there an office building where people working might have seen the accident from the window? Are there any cameras nearby that may have captured the incident? Identify any witnesses and collect their contact information.