Learn the legal options available to victims and perpetrators following a hit-and-run accident
This article provides an in-depth analysis of Iowa's hit-and-run laws, highlighting the troubling statistics, legal requirements to avoid charges, and the available legal options for victims.
It’s a beautiful day in Des Moines, and a cyclist is enjoying a peaceful ride along the High Trestle Trail. Suddenly, a large SUV veers off the road, striking the cyclist and speeding away.
Scenarios like this are, unfortunately, becoming more common in the Hawkeye State.
This article explores Iowa's hit-and-run laws, including the steps you need to take to avoid a hit-and-run charge, the penalties, and the legal options available to hit-and-run victims.
Iowa hit-and-run statistics
According to the most recent data compiled by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there are more than 700,000 hit-and-run crashes in the United States annually.
This translates to one hit-and-run crash every 43 seconds.
What’s more, roughly 2,000 of these crashes are fatal, and the number of fatal hit-and-run crashes has been increasing at an average of 7.2 percent since 2009.
In Iowa, there are roughly two fatal hit-and-run crashes for every 10 billion miles traveled, translating to about eight fatal hit-and-run accidents per year.
What is Iowa’s hit-and-run law?
Iowa’s hit-and-run statute can be found in Iowa Code Section 321.263.
Under the statute, drivers in Iowa must do three things to avoid a hit-and-run charge:
- Stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident (or as close to the scene as possible),
- Provide their name, address, insurance company, insurance policy number, and vehicle license number to any person involved in the crash, and
- Render reasonable assistance to anyone injured.
In addition to the steps above, drivers involved in fatal crashes must report the crash to the police and remain at the scene until the police arrive.
If a driver strikes an unattended vehicle, the driver must:
- Locate the owner of the vehicle, or
- Leave a note giving the name and address of the driver in a conspicuous place
What are the penalties for a hit-and-run in Iowa?
The penalties for a hit-and-run in Iowa depend on the accident’s severity. Here’s a helpful breakdown:
|Iowa hit-and-run penalties
|Seriousness of accident
|Up to $850
|Up to 30 days
|Up to $2,560
|Up to 12 months
|Up to $8,540
|Up to 2 years
|Class D felony
|Up to $10,245
|Up to 5 years
For purposes of Iowa’s hit-and-run statute, the term “serious injury” includes any of the following:
- Disabling mental illness,
- Bodily injury which (a) creates a substantial risk of death, (b) causes severe permanent disfigurement, or (c) causes protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or
- Any injury to a child that requires surgical repair and necessities the administration of general anesthesia.
Common examples of serious injury include:
- Brain injuries
- Rib fractures
- Skull fractures
- Fractures of the long bones of children under the age of four years
Jayden Maurice Jackson, a 19-year-old from Moline, Iowa, was sentenced to four years in prison in relation to a fatal hit-and-run incident. Upon completion of his prison term, Jayden will also serve a mandatory two-year supervised release.
The accident took place when Dawn White was crossing the intersection of 38th Avenue and 60th Street and was struck by a black 2011 Ford Fusion driven by Jayden. The 43-year old Dawn White, an East Moline resident, was transported to a local hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
What should I do if I fled the scene of a car accident?
Fleeing the scene of an accident is never the right decision, but it’s a decision that’s made by thousands of people every year in Iowa.
Drivers may flee the scene of an accident for any of the following reasons:
- Fear of confrontation
- Lack of insurance
- Lack of awareness
- Fear of consequences
If you flee the scene of an accident, you should immediately call the police station closest to the accident and provide notice of the accident, along with your contact information. Doing so might not save you from a hit-and-run conviction, but it’s the right thing to do, and it may result in you receiving a lesser sentence than if law enforcement tracks you down.
How do I recover damages after a hit-and-run crash in Iowa
If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run crash, you may face mounting medical bills. What’s more, you may miss time from work due to your injuries or, even if you don’t miss time from work due to your injuries, you may not have an operational vehicle to get you to work.
If the hit-and-run driver can be identified, you can file an insurance claim or a personal injury suit against the hit-and-run driver.
Unfortunately, only about ten percent of hit-and-run perpetrators are identified.
If you’re unable to identify the hit-and-run driver, the following optional insurance policies 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.
- 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.
Learn more about car insurance in Iowa, including minimum requirements.
FAQs about hit-and-run accidents in Iowa
In case we haven’t already answered your questions, let’s address five frequently asked questions about hit-and-run accidents in Iowa:
Generally, passengers are not held responsible unless they contributed to the accident or the driver's decision to flee the scene of the accident.
Technically, you don’t need to stop at the scene of an accident if the accident didn’t cause property damage, injury, or death. Practically speaking, it’s almost impossible to be involved in an accident that doesn’t result in some damage, even if it’s just a scratch. What’s more, it’s unlikely that you’ll know for certain whether your accident caused damage. It’s best to assume your accident resulted in damage.
Yes, a hit-and-run conviction can result in a suspension or revocation of your driver's license, depending on the severity of the accident.
While returning to the scene doesn't erase the initial act of fleeing, it may potentially mitigate the penalties. However, the specific outcome depends on the circumstances and how the court views your actions.
Yes, cyclists and motorcyclists are subject to the same laws as motor vehicle drivers and can be charged with a hit-and-run.
Hit-and-run accidents can be devastating, particularly if the hit-and-run driver can’t be found. If you're involved in a hit-and-run incident, it's a good idea to consult with an experienced Iowa attorney to ensure you explore all of your legal options. Most first consultations are free.