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Could I be fined for driving off from a car crash I didn’t cause in California?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2024 | General Criminal Defense |

Screeching tires, honking horns, shattering glass. These are all common sounds during a car crash. If you are lucky, you may also hear a sigh of relief when you realize you did not cause the crash. In this moment, you likely have many questions. One of the most pressing: can I leave? Do I have to stay at the scene?

The answer will vary depending on the details. If the crash is far ahead and there is no damage to your vehicle, not a fender bender, not even a scratch, it may be okay. However, even if this scenario it is advisable to stay and offer assistance if needed.

If your vehicle was impacted, even in a minor way, California state law requires you to stay at the scene.

Why should I stay at the scene of a crash?

Driving away from the scene of a car accident is a serious offense in San Diego and throughout California, even if you did not cause the crash. Under California law, drivers involved in a car accident must stop, provide their information, and offer assistance to anyone injured. This legal requirement applies to all parties involved, regardless of who is at fault.

Failure to fulfill these obligations can result in significant penalties. The consequences of driving off from a car crash can be severe. If only property damage occurred, it might be considered a misdemeanor, leading to fines and potentially jail time. In cases involving injury or death, the offense can escalate to a felony, which carries steeper fines, longer jail sentences, and possible suspension of your driver’s license.

It is crucial to understand that these penalties apply regardless of fault. Even if another driver caused the accident, you must stay and follow the proper procedures.

In addition to immediate penalties, leaving the scene of an accident can have long-term legal implications:

  • Insurance consequences: Insurers may significantly increase your premiums or even cancel your policy.
  • Civil liability: You may face civil lawsuits from other parties involved in the accident, leading to additional financial burdens.

Leaving the scene of a car accident in California can lead to serious legal repercussions. It is not only a violation of the law but also a decision that can compound the difficulties you face after an accident. Whether you believe you are at fault or not, it is essential to remain at the scene, provide the necessary information, and assist those involved as required by law.

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