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How to Avoid Criminal Charges After an Accident

Being involved in a car accident is a frightening experience, even if the accident is relatively minor. Adding to the stress of an accident is the fact that it can result in criminal charges, especially if your actions may have caused the collision. 

Click here to read my blog post about some common traffic citations that can result from a car accident.

After an accident, drivers in Georgia have certain responsibilities under Georgia law. Leaving the accident scene without fulfilling these responsibilities can dramatically increase your chances of landing in a Georgia courtroom, because Georgia takes these responsibilities seriously.  

When most people think of the phrase “hit and run,” they think of any instance when a person leaves the scene of an accident without stopping. 

However, there are actually four(4) criminal statutes that deal with the duty that Georgia drivers have after an accident. How do you know which one applies? In general, it depends on what you hit and whether the accident resulted in injury.

In this blog post, you’ll learn about these statutes, how they are different, and what to do if you are charged. 

Hit and Run / Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Applicable law:  O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270

When it applies: This law applies when an accident results in either:

  • Injury or death, or 
  • Damage to an occupied vehicle.

What you have to do: You must stop and provide information to the other driver. If the other driver is injured, you must render assistance. That can include transporting the individual to the hospital or calling an ambulance. If the other driver is unconscious, appears deceased, or cannot communicate, you must contact EMS and law enforcement. 

Penalties for violation: The penalties for violating the Hit and Run law depend on several factors. These include the severity of the injury and whether you have previously been convicted of a hit and run. The offense could be a felony if a death or serious injury resulted from the accident.

To learn more about the specifics of the law and possible license penalties, read my full article about Georgia’s Hit and Run / Leaving the Scene of an Accident Statute here.

Duty Upon Striking Unattended Vehicle

Applicable law:  O.C.G.A. § 40-6-271

When it applies: When you hit a parked, unattended vehicle (there’s no one inside).

What you have to do: You must stop and attempt to locate the owner or operator of the vehicle. If you can find the owner, you must give them your name and address. If you cannot find them, you must leave a note in a conspicuous location with your name and address.

Penalties for violation: This is a misdemeanor. It carries a possible fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of up to 12 months. 

Learn more about the specifics of the law, including license penalties, in my article here

Duty Upon Striking a Fixed Object

Applicable law:  O.C.G.A. § 40-6-272

When it applies: When you hit a stationary object (something that doesn’t move) adjacent to a roadway. Streetlights, trees, and utility poles are all examples of fixed objects.

What you have to do: You must take reasonable steps to notify the property owner. Once you find the owner, you must give them your name, address, vehicle registration number, and let them see your driver’s license.

Penalty for violation: Striking a Fixed Object is a misdemeanor. It carries a possible fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of up to 12 months. 

Learn more about the specifics of the law, including license penalties and the severe repercussions for CDL drivers, in my article here

Duty To Report Accident Resulting in Injury, Death, or Property Damage

Applicable law:  O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273

When it applies: When you’re in an accident that results in injury, death, or property damage in excess of $500. 

What you have to do: You must notify the local police department. 

Penalty for violation: Violating the Duty To Report Accident Resulting in Injury, Death, or Property Damage is a misdemeanor. It carries a possible fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of up to 12 months. 

If you are charged with any of these offenses, you should have a lawyer on your side

Hit and run and all related offenses can create serious problems for you. This is especially true if you have a commercial driver’s license. Even if you don’t have a CDL, the fines for these offenses can be steep. It’s important to know what you’re getting into. Don’t go to court alone. Call me today.

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