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What Should Be Done in the Aftermath of a Car Accident to Avoid Criminal Charges?

Car accidents happen every day, and the chances of a person being involved in one are relatively high. Up to 50 million people are involved in car accidents across the globe each year, and 1.35 million people lose their lives. When someone is in a car accident, they may find themselves disoriented and unsure of what they should be doing to document what happened. Despite this, the best thing you can do at this time is remain on the scene. If you leave prematurely, you could be accused of a hit-and-run.

What Should I Do Right After a Car Accident Occurs?

The moments immediately following a car accident can vary drastically depending on the severity of the collision. Some people may be in shock or may be unable to process what just happened. However, a person who was just involved in an accident should follow these steps if they are physically able to:

  • Assess your injuries: If you are conscious and aware of what just happened, you should immediately check for injuries. If you are severely injured, call emergency services if you can, or alert witnesses to the fact that you need assistance.
  • Check on any passengers: If you had passengers in the car, check to see how they are doing and if they require medical assistance. If so, contact emergency services.
  • Contact the police: Contacting the police is an extremely important step to take in the aftermath of a car accident, even if you have reason to believe that you are partially or fully at fault. Police officers will help file a formal accident report and document what the scene looks like in photographs and writing. This can be extremely helpful if a lawsuit occurs regarding the accident, as well asf or insurance purposes.
  • Stay safe: If the accident is any more severe than a light fender-bender, moving the vehicles before the police arrive is not recommended. Keeping the vehicles in place will help the police report be as accurate as possible. However, if the vehicles can be moved and they are in a place that could create danger for others, they should be moved.

This may seem like a lot of information to remember immediately after an accident. However, completing these steps can help keep everyone as safe as possible and ensure an accurate report of the accident for later use.

What If Another Party Is Involved?

If a collision occurs between two vehicles driven by separate parties, there are some important steps to follow to preserve your rights and help prove you were not at fault if the question comes up. After an accident, each party should exchange the following information:

  • Full names
  • Telephone numbers where they can easily be reached
  • The make, model, year, and VIN (vehicle identification number) for each vehicle involved
  • Insurance information (the insurance company, which agent to contact, etc.)
  • The name of the person who carries the insurance policy for the relevant vehicle

This information can be provided to either the driver of the other vehicle that was involved in the accident or to one of the police officers at the scene. If someone hits a car that doesn’t have anyone in it, they should leave this information in a note on the vehicle in addition to giving it to the police.

Is There Specific Information I Should Obtain Before I Leave the Scene?

If someone involved in a car accident can move around before leaving the scene, they should try to obtain the following information to protect themselves in case a lawsuit is filed later on:

  • The names and badge numbers of any police officers who show up to the scene of the accident.
  • A copy of the formal accident report, which can be obtained through the reporting officers. This is important to have for insurance purposes, but also for any potential legal ramifications later.
  • Photographs of the scene of the accident, from many different angles and of both vehicles. Photographs can help prove claims to insurers and make great evidence in court.
  • The names and contact information of everyone involved in the accident, including passengers that were in the other vehicle.

In summary, it is important to document as much information regarding the accident and the people involved as possible because it can help make insurance claims strong and serve as defense evidence in court.

When speaking with police officers at the scene of an accident, it is important for drivers to be careful with what they say regarding fault. No one should be assigning blame (or admitting fault) at the scene of an accident, especially in front of police officers who will document what they hear and make it known in court. Drivers should let the scene of the accident speak for itself, because they may not know all the factors that led to the accident and may assume fault for something they did not cause.

When Can I Leave the Scene of an Accident?

It is important for a driver to stay put at the scene of an accident until they are legally able to leave. They may be charged with a hit-and-run if they leave too soon. Drivers in the state of Wisconsin have a legal duty to stop their vehicle if they have been in an accident involving a pedestrian, an occupied car, or even an unoccupied vehicle. If they choose to leave the scene without providing their information or assisting, they may face criminal charges.

Section 346.67 of the Wisconsin State Legislature indicates that a driver must stop their vehicle as safely as possible if they are in an accident believed to caused damage, injury, or death. In addition to stopping at the scene, drivers are legally obligated to:

  • Give information about themselves, such as their name and address, to the involved parties
  • Give their vehicle’s registration number
  • Present their driver’s license
  • Help get medical assistance if they can do so
  • Contact the authorities if the total damage of the accident is over $1,000

What Are the Consequences of a Hit-and-Run?

Anyone who leaves the scene of an accident before they are supposed to may face harsh consequences, especially if the accident was severe. The potential consequences of a hit-and-run charge include:

  • Low-level misdemeanor charges will be brought against anyone who leaves the scene of an accident that did not result in physical injuries. The potential consequences of such a conviction can include a fine between $300 and $1,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 6 months.
  • A Class A misdemeanor will be brought against anyone who leaves the scene of an accident that resulted in physical injuries but not great bodily harm. The potential consequences of a Class A misdemeanor include a $10,000 fine and/or a prison sentence of up to 9 months.
  • A Class E felony will be brought against anyone who leaves the scene of an accident that resulted in great bodily harm. The potential consequences of a conviction include a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a prison sentence of 15 years.
  • If someone leaves the scene of a fatal car accident, they will be charged with a Class D felony. They will face a $100,000 fine and/or a prison sentence of 25 years.

Contact an Attorney Today

If you are facing hit-and-run charges and need legal advice, contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella today. Our highly experienced attorney has defended hundreds of clients in Wisconsin’s Federal District Court and provides personalized, empathetic service to all his clients. We understand that the future is on the line for our clients and work dutifully on their behalf towards a favorable outcome. Contact us today at (414) 882-8382 or via the contact form on our site.