Guide to Virginia Hit-and-Run Accidents

Hit-and-run accidents and laws

Hit-and-run laws, liability, compensation and frequently asked questions from drivers in the Old Dominion State

Whether you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident in Virginia or you suspect you might have committed one, we’ll answer some questions you may have.
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A “hit and run” occurs when a driver hits another vehicle, person, or piece of property and flees the scene without stopping to provide their personal information or render reasonable assistance.

Virginia is the 5th-worst state in the country when it comes to hit-and-run violations.

So let’s answer some common questions Virginians have about hit-and-run accidents.

Are hit-and-run accidents common in Virginia?

According to the AAA Motor Club, a hit-and-run accident occurs every 60 seconds in the United States.

In Virginia, 4,815 (3.7%) of 131,848 total accidents in 2018 were hit-an-run accidents. What’s more, approximately 13.75% of drivers have received a citation for a hit-and-run at some point.

There were 4,815 hit-and-run accidents in Virginia in 2018. Tweet this

Although some hit-and-run accidents only result in property damage or minor injuries, roughly 22 people are killed every year as a result of hit-and-run crashes in Virginia.

What are the hit-and-run laws in Virginia?

Virginia’s laws concerning hit-and-run accidents can be found in Section 46.2-894 of the Virginia Code. Here’s what you need to know:

Legal obligations for hitting an attended vehicle in Virginia

In Virginia, the driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident with an attended vehicle that results in injury or property damage is required by law to:

  • Stop their vehicle at the scene (or as close to the scene as possible)
  • Provide their name, address, registration number, and driver’s license to the police or the other person involved in the accident
  • Assist any injured persons
If, because of an injury, you’re unable to provide the required information at the scene of the accident, you must provide the information to the local police as soon as reasonably possible and you must attempt to locate the other person involved in the accident and provide the information to them.

If you’re a passenger and the driver fails to stop or report the accident (and you have knowledge of this failure), you must report the accident to the local police within 24 hours.

Legal obligations for hitting an unattended vehicle in Virginia

The driver of any vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident with an unattended vehicle that results in property damage must:

  • Make a reasonable effort to find the owner of the property and provide their name, address, registration number, and driver’s license to the owner
  • If the owner can’t be found, leave a note at the scene of the accident with the information AND report the accident to the local police within 24 hours
If you’re a passenger and the driver fails to report the accident (and you have knowledge of this failure), you must report the accident to the local police within 24 hours.

Are there penalties for a hit and run in Virginia?

Yes! Penalties for a hit-and-run depend on the circumstances but range from a maximum fine of $250 to 10 years in jail.

Virginia penalties for hit-and-run drivers
Offense Attended or unattended vehicle Damage Penalty
Class 5 felony Attended Injury, death, or more than $1,000 in property damages Up to 10 years in jail and a $2,500 fine
Class 1 misdemeanor Attended $1,000 or more in property damage Up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine
Class 1 misdemeanor Unattended $250 or more in property damage Up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine
Class 4 misdemeanor Unattended $250 or less in property damage Fine up to $250

In Virginia, it’s not just the driver who can be criminal charged for a hit and run. Vehicle passengers can also face consequences for fleeing the accident scene:

Virginia penalties for hit-and-run passengers
Offense Attended or unattended vehicle Damage Penalty
Class 6 felony Attended Injury or death Up to 5 years in jail and a fine of $2,500
Class 1 misdemeanor Attended Property damage Up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine
Class 1 misdemeanor Unattended $250 or more in property damage Up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine
Class 4 misdemeanor Unattended $250 or less in property damage Fine up to $250

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

In addition, a driver might flee the scene because they didn’t realize they were involved in an accident (or that someone was injured).

Real Life Example: Eugene C. Herchenbach v. Commonwealth of Virginia (Supreme Court of Virginia)
The body of a motorcyclist was found on Route 460 in Disputanta, Virginia. The coroner determined that the motorcyclist's body was on the pavement when the wheel of a bus ran over the rider’s head. Though no buses stopped at the scene, the police were able to locate the bus driver who ran over the victim.

The bus driver was charged with violating Virginia’s hit-and-run statute, but he argued that he couldn’t have violated the statute because he didn’t know he hit anyone.

The court ultimately agreed, noting that the statute required “knowledge,” and that it was plausible the bus driver didn’t know he ran over the motorcyclist given the extremely foggy conditions, the height of the headlights, and the fact that the bus loaded with 35 passengers and their baggage could have passed over the head of a person without the driver or passengers being able to distinguish between the wheels of the bus passing over any ordinary defect in the roadbed.

What should you do if you’re the victim of a hit and run?

If you’re the victim of a hit and run in Virginia, you’re probably frustrated and scared. Try to remain calm and take the following 3 steps:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, and photos of the accident scene and any damages.
  3. Locate witnesses. Did anybody see the accident? What about people in nearby vehicles or those waiting for the bus nearby? How about individuals working in the surrounding buildings? Identify any witnesses and collect their contact information. When the police arrive, be sure to tell the police about the witnesses.

Just as there are some things you should do following a hit and run, there are also some things you absolutely should not do — such as:

  • 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.

How do I recover damages after a hit and run in VA?

Hopefully, the police (or your lawyer) will be able to track down the fleeing driver. If the driver is found, you can file a claim with their insurance provider or file a personal injury lawsuit against them.

Even if you never find the driver, 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.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage provides up to $10,000 in coverage regardless of who’s at fault. What is covered depends on your specific policy.
  • MedPay coverage. MedPay coverage provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers regardless of who is at fault.

Need help with your hit-and-run claim? Find an experienced personal injury attorney using our free online directory.

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