What to do after a hit-and-run accident in the Buckeye State
You're sitting in your vehicle in a parking lot in Columbus, Ohio. Another vehicle enters the lot and tries to park in the space next to you. The driver miscalculates the angle and scrapes the side of your car. He pauses a moment, then quickly reverses and peels out of the lot.
You sit there, in total shock.
What happens now? Is the driver in trouble for leaving? What if he didn't realize he damaged your car? Can you recover damages or are you out of luck?
Being involved in a hit-and-run accident in Ohio can be confusing and frustrating. Fortunately, this article will clear things up and hopefully reduce your level of frustration.
Ohio hit-and-run (or "hit skip") law
If you're involved in an Ohio car accident, you're required to stop, share your information, and offer reasonable aid if necessary. Failure to do these things could result in a hit-and-run (or hit skip) charge.
Charges for leaving the scene of an accident range from a 1st-degree misdemeanor to a 2nd degree felony.
Depending on the severity of injuries, penalties can range from no jail time to eight years, fines up to $15,000 and all result in a six-month minimum license suspension.
When you take the entire country into account, 4.6 out of every 10,000 motorists have had at least 1 hit-and-run violation.
Unfortunately, Ohio sits above the national average. In Ohio, 7 out of every 10,000 motorists have had at least 1 hit-and-run violation.
|Ohio hit-and-run statistics (2017)|
|Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety|
Ohio hit-and-run laws
Chapter 4549 of Ohio's Vehicle Code requires every driver involved in an accident that results in damage to do 3 things:
- Stop at or near the scene of the accident.
- Exchange their name and address, registration number, and driver's license with the other people involved in the accident.
- Contact medical personnel if necessary.
If the vehicle hit was unoccupied, Ohio law requires the driver to attach a note with their information (name and address, registration number, and driver's license number) to the unoccupied vehicle.
Additionally, if the accident occurred somewhere other than on a public road or highway (for example, a private road, parking lot, or driveway), the driver must contact the local police department and provide their contact information, along with a description of the damage.
What happens if you hit a building or some other structure?
Ohio hit-and-run laws don't just cover vehicles.
If you hit a building or some other structure (such as a fence or telephone pole), Ohio law requires that you stop your vehicle and take "reasonable steps" to locate the owner (or person in charge of the property) and provide them with your contact information.
If the owner (or person in charge of the property) can't be located, you're required to contact the nearest police station within 24-hours and provide your contact information.
Penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident
Fleeing the scene of an accident might seem like a good idea at the time (especially if you don't have insurance), but it's always a bad idea. The penalties for fleeing the scene are severe, particularly if you were aware that the accident caused an injury or death.
|Ohio hit-and-run penalties|
|Type||Charge||Jail||Maximum fine||License suspension|
|No injury||1st-degree misdemeanor||0-6 months||$1,000||6-month minimum|
|Serious injury||5th-degree felony||6-12 months||$2,500||6-month minimum|
|Known serious injury||4th-degree felony||6-18 months||$5,000||6-month minimum|
|Death||3rd-degree felony||12-60 months||$10,000||6-month minimum|
|Known death||2nd-degree felony||2-8 years||$15,000||6-month minimum|
In addition to the penalties listed above, your auto insurance rates are likely to go up. In some cases, you may even be dropped from your insurance altogether.
What to do if you're the victim of a hit and run in Ohio
Your first instinct following a hit-and-run accident might be to chase after the fleeing driver. However, chasing after a fleeing driver is the last thing you should do. A driver who flees the scene of an accident may do so because they're intoxicated, the car is stolen, or there is a warrant out for their arrest.
The bottom line:
Fleeing drivers don't want to be caught and chasing after them puts you (and others) on the road at risk.
In fact, chasing after fleeing drivers is so dangerous that Ohio police are restricted from doing so in certain situations.
"It is a very, very, scary thing," said Deputy Chief Jennifer Knight of the Columbus Division of Police, when asked about pursuing a fleeing driver.
Instead, take the following steps after a hit-and-run accident:
- Contact emergency services. Your health should be your first priority. If you're injured, call an ambulance (911). You'll also want to contact the police and explain that you were involved in a hit-and-run. The police will write a report and attempt to track down the driver.
- Collect information. Gather as much information about the driver, car, and accident as possible, including the license plate number, a description of the vehicle, the direction the vehicle was headed, a description of the driver, and photos of the accident scene.
- Locate witnesses. Did anybody see the accident? What about people working in the surrounding buildings? Identify any potential witnesses and get their contact information.
- Call your insurance company. The sooner you contact your insurer, the sooner the company's investigators can start investigating the accident and track down the fleeing driver.
What to do if you were the driver who fled the accident scene?
While fleeing the scene of an accident is wrong and illegal, it's 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.
Whatever the reason, fleeing the scene of an accident is serious.
If you've made this mistake, we recommend you contact an Ohio criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to talk about how to make things right while still protecting your legal rights.
What if I don't know if I hit someone?
In Ohio, a driver can only be convicted of a hit-and-run if they fled the scene with knowledge of the accident or collision. In other words, the prosecution has to prove that you knew you hit the vehicle in question. If you left the scene of an accident without realizing you hit the vehicle, be sure to tell your defense attorney.
How do I receive damages if I can't identify the hit and run driver?
If the fleeing driver is ultimately found, you can file a claim with their insurance provider or file a personal injury lawsuit against them.
However, if you can't locate the driver, your insurance policy might provide compensation depending on whether you purchased certain optional coverage. Examples of optional coverage in Ohio 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 found.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage provides up to $10,000 in coverage, regardless of who's at fault.
- MedPay coverage. MedPay coverage provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.
A skilled personal injury attorney can help you investigate a hit-and-run accident and make sure you receive the damages you deserve. Use our free online directory to find an experienced Ohio attorney in your area.