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Duty to Report an Accident in Georgia
Under Georgia law, you must stop and call the police if you are involved in an accident that results in:
- Death, or
- Property damage of over $500.
The applicable law here is O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273.
It is important to note that the $500 threshold in the law is relatively low. If you have ever had bodywork done on your vehicle, you know that $500 doesn't go very far. Therefore, if there's any doubt about whether damage to a vehicle exceeds that amount, it's best to err on the side of caution and notify the police department.
Who do you have to notify?
If the accident occurred within a city, you should notify the local police department. If it happened outside of a city, you must inform the county sheriff's office or the nearest Georgia State Patrol office.
How must you give notice?
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273 only states that you must give notice "immediately" and "by the quickest means of communication." These days, most of us carry our cell phones, which makes getting in touch with law enforcement much easier than when we relied on payphones.
Overlap with the Hit and Run Law
There is significant overlap between the Duty to Report statute and the Georgia Hit and Run law. Both are applicable when an accident results in injury, death, or property damage. The Hit and Run law does not have a damage threshold, whereas the "Duty to report an accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage" statute does.
The Hit and Run statute requires drivers to give the other driver certain information and render assistance if the other driver is injured. This includes calling EMS and local law enforcement. In contrast, the Duty to Report an Accident statute only requires drivers to notify law enforcement.
The most significant difference is in the consequences of a conviction. If you are convicted of Hit and Run in Georgia, you face an automatic license suspension. A conviction for Failure to Report an Accident will result in 3 points on your license. Thus, a conviction for Failure to Report Accident can be much less damaging for your driving prospects.
Georgia Traffic Attorneys often try to get Hit and Run cases reduced to Failure to Report Accident charges because of these lower consequences.
You can read more about Hit and Run in Georgia in my article here.
Penalties for a Conviction
Failing to report an accident is a misdemeanor offense in Georgia. That means that it carries a possible penalty of:
- A fine of up to $1,000 (plus court costs and fees),
- A jail term of up to 12 months.
Instead of jail, judges can order probation, which is a jail sentence served outside of jail. They can also order community service, defensive driving, or restitution (if financial damage resulted from the accident).
License Penalties for violating the Duty to Report an Accident law
For most drivers, violation of the "Duty to Report Accident Resulting in Injury, Death or Property Damage" law is a 3-point offense. If you are convicted of this offense in one of Georgia's criminal courts, that court will transmit a record of the conviction to the Department of Driver Services (DDS). DDS then assesses points to your license. Depending on your age and driving history, accumulating points can seriously affect your ability to keep driving.
This offense is far more problematic for drivers holding a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). Under Georgia law, DDS considers Failure to Report an Accident a "Major Traffic Violation." Conviction of a major traffic violation will result in disqualification of your CDL. CDL disqualification can be devastating for people who rely on it to make a living.
Why You Should Call Me Today
If you have been charged with Failure to Report an Accident in Georgia, you need a Georgia Traffic Attorney on your side. Even though Failure to Report may seem less serious than, for example, Hit and Run, you are still facing serious consequences. You are looking at steep fines and possible jail time. You deserve to know your options and to have someone on your side. Questions that I haven't covered here? Give me a call today.
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