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How Does Leaving the Scene of a Crash Impact Liability?

Published on Apr 26, 2022 at 12:19 pm in car accidents.

smashed windshield

Pennsylvania state law is clear—you cannot leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident without first completing certain actions as required by law. However, it can be difficult to think clearly and rationally after being involved in an accident. In the confusion immediately following a collision, some people might act in ways that they would otherwise find surprising.

Even if you feel as if you were not in total control of your actions, leaving the scene of a crash can impact liability.

Why Do People Leave the Scene of an Accident?

No two people or crashes are alike, which makes this is a complicated question with many nuanced answers. For some people, the fight, flight, or freeze response takes over, and they later look back on the incident wondering why they behaved in a certain manner.

An amygdala hijack can also be blamed for a driver leaving the scene of a crash. The amygdala is located in the temporal lobe in the brain. As part of our limbic system, it is a vital part of the brain structure that regulates emotional and behavioral responses. When signals bypass the rational side of our brains and go straight to the emotional part where the amygdala is located, you can react in surprising ways that you may later describe as over the top or out of character. For example, leaving the scene of an accident could be blamed on an amygdala hijack.

Physical symptoms of an amygdala hijack include:

  • Racing heart
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shaking
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Tense muscles

However, not every instance of someone fleeing after a car accident can be blamed on a rush of hormones or an amygdala hijack. Others may quickly leave the scene because they:

  • Are uninsured
  • Have less insurance than required by Pennsylvania law
  • Do not have a valid driver’s license
  • Are under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Why Do You Have To Stay at the Scene of a Crash?

Pennsylvania § 3743 and § 3744 clearly state a driver’s duty to render aid and provide important information to other involved drivers after a car crash. When a crash causes vehicle damage, property damage, or injury to a person, all drivers must provide their:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Insurance information
  • Driver’s license information

If one or more of the involved drivers is unable to receive this information, you are required by law to report the crash to the police. This means that if another driver is incapacitated, was transported to the hospital, or fled the scene, it is up to you to file a police report.

It is wise to file a police report even when all drivers are able to exchange information without issue. Your attorney, if you have one, can potentially make use of the information contained within a police report when helping with your personal injury claim.

Personal Injury Liability After Leaving the Scene of a Crash

It can be horrifying to realize that the other driver involved in your accident is fleeing the scene. Your immediate thoughts may go to financial concerns. If the accident was not your fault or you were not wholly at fault (Pennsylvania follows the comparative negligence doctrine), you would have been able to pursue compensation for your injuries and other damages.

When a driver leaves the scene of the accident without exchanging information, you have no way of collecting compensation from their insurance company.

You are not without options, though. You may still be able to receive vital compensation for your recovery from your own auto insurer. Your actions immediately following a hit-and-run accident may impact whether you can successfully collect compensation, so be sure to stay at the scene of the accident and contact the police. If you also leave the crash site, your insurer might be resistant to covering your damages and you could potentially face criminal charges for a hit-and-run.

There are exceptions to this, of course. If you are in need of immediate medical care, you should contact 911 or go to the emergency room. Contact police and your insurance company as soon as possible after receiving the treatment you need.

When you talk with your insurance company, be clear about what happened in the accident. Do not offer more information than is strictly necessary, as insurance agents often listen for anything they can use to deny compensation.

When speaking with the police, provide as much information about the other vehicle and driver as possible. While the time immediately following an accident can be confusing, do your best to take note of the make, model, color, and license plate number of the vehicle that is fleeing. These details can help the police identify the car and driver involved in your accident.

Finding the Right Help After a Hit-and-Run Accident

You pay your monthly auto insurance premiums every month. After months, years, or even decades of making these regular, on-time payments, you expect your insurance company to be there in your time of need. At Stapp Law, LLC, our car accident lawyers have seen time and time again how insurance companies fail to hold up their end of the bargain.

Your own insurance company might be resistant to paying the claim for your accident, even when you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. While your insurer strings you along, debating liability, whether you have the right coverage, or  asking about the severity of your injuries, you are left to deal with the fallout all on your own. Medical bills, car repairs, and lost wages can create a devastating financial reality that you never expected to live through.

The attorneys at Stapp Law, LLC have what it takes to get the insurance company to pay out. We do not accept less than what our clients need to make the fullest possible recovery, and we are ready to advise you of your legal options moving forward. You can schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys by contacting our office.

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