Can you go to jail for a hit and run? What you should do if you are involved?

When you often see road accidents, it usually makes you think of civil responsibilities- issues such as who is responsible for the accident, who will pay for the damage or any injury, or whether the insurance company will take into account such expenses?

A hit and run is a crime that has more to do with the aftermath of the accident as compared to its cause. The hit and run can charge felonies. According to a study, from 2009 the hit and run cases are at 60% increase in the US. However, this offense is becoming more common- the major observed reason for hit and run is distractive driving.

This offense has two different scenarios- property damage and injuries. In addition, self-awareness can lead you to the question can you go to jail for a hit and run? This article provides you the answer to this question keeping in view the laws and regulations governed in the US about hit and run.

Conceptualizing Hit and Run Accidents

First, let’s see what property damage comes under hit and run because many people think it only has to deal with damaged vehicles in accidents. Following are the considered properties.

  • Cars
  • Pets
  • Landscaping
  • Mailboxes
  • Lamp posts
  • And traffic signs

However, it may seem minor about pets. But many law states take it seriously as pets are owners’ personal property.

Hit and run is generally a serious traffic offense. It involves accidents with another car, pedestrian, or any roadside object. It becomes offensive when you flee the scene after an accident or did not assist the injured pedestrian. Additionally, some of the states use the term ‘hit and run’ for injuries caused to animals.

In most states, hitting a car is just treated as a crime. But leaving the scene can cause some serious felonies. However, sometimes you have to leave the scene to call out the emergency because of the lack of signals. As long as you come back immediately to the scene for assistance can control the case intensity. There is no requirement for hit and run cases whether it happened on the highway or road. Eventually, in some states car damages in parking lots also consider as a hit-and-run case. For example; if you have hit a car in a parking lot and did not put a note on a windshield of your contact number, many state laws count it as a ‘hit and run’.

Can you go to jail for a hit and run?

The answer to can you go to jail for a hit and run is not particularly defined as every state has different laws. Based on circumstances, hit and run will be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. However, in most states, a felony of hit and run takes place when you leave the accident scene, where there is an injured person whether he/she is a vehicle occupant or a pedestrian.

Charges or penalties of felonies can be serious but varies from state to state. In most states, they charge a fine between $5,000 and $20,000. And there are also the chances of imprisonment as a punishment for hitting and running. Although it depends on the accident case intensity whether it was severe or not. But if it is, some states sentence imprisonment up to 15 years. 

Hit and run are also classified as a misdemeanor. Usually, people think that it is not serious punishment. Therefore, misdemeanors can be fined up to $5,000 and a year in jail.

California Laws

In California laws, vehicle code section 2000 states that if a person is involved in a collision that has damaged the property or any other vehicle. A person must stop right after the collision at any near safe spot without disturbing the traffic. The driver who has caused the collision must give his contact information to the owner and notify him of the damage. If there is no availability of the owner, leave a note and inform the police as soon as possible about the accident. 

Although, trading the information after the collision is law but not every damage has major consequences. For example; you have to take a turn, and due to less space on the road, your car’s bumper slightly touches the other’s car bumper. There is no need to call the authorities or trade personal information.

In addition, an important note to keep in mind. In some hit-and-run situations, you can be charged with a fine when there is not even your fault. For example; you have been hit by another car and you left the scene. You do not bother to stop to get notified with personal information. You will be charged under hit and run.


For instance, if you are the person who has caused the damage the victim has the right to sue you through court for the collision. For these circumstances lawsuit covers the damage via compensations like medical expenses, property damage lawsuits, and lost wages.

Becoming a reason for collision can be punishable and the court can increase the amount of fine. In some states hit and run consider punitive damage and treble damage in civil lawsuits.

Punitive damage is entitled as an award given to the injured person by the court. It does not cover the injuries. It appears after the compensation part. However, it is not a compensatory label but the court will punish the defendant for his or her wrongdoing.

Although, punitive damage has some considerable factors. It comes in the following common situations:

  • A conducted nature of the defendant
  • How many assets does the defendant have
  • Is the defendant able to continue harming people if he or she is not punished?
  • The intense level of harm suffered by the plaintiff of the initial case.

Car damages are entitled to triple the award by the court to the plaintiff. The tripled award only occurs if the statute allows it. For instance, if the plaintiff is awarded the amount of $10,000 for damages. The related statutes with civil penalties automatically allow the judge to raise the amount to $30,000.

Recent Posts