Hit and Run in Texas: Consequences for Failure to Stop and Render Aid

It is not uncommon to hear about drivers leaving the scene of accidents in Texas. Sometimes the accident is a minor fender-bender while others may involve a major crash resulting in serious injuries or even death.

Most drivers who flee the scene do so because they are scared of the consequences. Perhaps they had something to drink, were driving on a suspended license, or were speeding or texting. What they may not realize is that by failing to stop and render aid or failing to leave their contact or insurance information, they very likely will make their situation worse if they get caught. To be sure, waiting for a knock on the door by police is also a very frightening way to live.

In Texas, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, injury or property damage is a crime. Sometimes referred to as a hit and run, the consequences for failure to stop and render aid in Texas can be severe depending on the facts and circumstances of the wreck. Here’s a look at requirements for motorists involved in motor vehicle accidents, including the possible punishments for failure to stop and render aid or failure to give information.

Before You Go On: Where did the Accident Happen?

The laws described in this article only apply to accidents that take place on:

(1) a road owned and controlled by a water control and improvement district;

(2) a private access way or parking area provided for a client or patron by a business, other than a private residential property, or the property of a garage or parking lot for which a charge is made for storing or parking a motor vehicle; and

(3) a highway or other public place.

 

What is a Driver’s Duty when Involved in an Accident Involving Injury or Death?

accidents involving injury or death

In Texas, drivers are legally obligated to stop if they are involved in a wreck where a person was injured or died. Section 550.021 of the Texas Transportation Code specifically outlines what is required of drivers who are involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in injury or death of another person:

  1. immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible;
  2. immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident;
  3. immediately determine whether a person is involved in the accident and whether that person requires aid; and
  4. remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 023, which include:
    1. giving your name and address, the registration number of the vehicle you were driving, the name and contact information of the insurance company;
    2. showing your driver’s license if requested and available;
    3. providing any injured person reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements to transport the person to a doctor or hospital for treatment if it is apparent treatment is necessary or if they injured person requests transportation. 
    4. immediately “by the quickest means of communication” give notice of the accident to law enforcement.

What are the Penalties for Failure to Stop and Render Aid in Texas for Accidents Involving Injury or Death?

Failing to stop and render aid (FRSA) in accidents are taken very seriously in Texas and can result in significant jail time and hefty fines. As mentioned, the penalties for failing to stop in render aid depend on the severity of the accident.

  • Failure to stop and render aid for accidents involving death is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The penalty for this crime was actually increased by lawmakers in 2013 in an effort to deter people who had been drinking from fleeing the scene of fatal accidents. The new legislation gave failure to stop and render aid involving death the same punitive weight as intoxication manslaughter. Both crimes are both punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
  • Failure to stop and render aid in accidents involving serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • Failure to stop aid in a crash involving minor injury is punishable by up to five years in prison or confinement in the county jail for not more than a year and up to a $5,000 fine.

Serious Bodily Injury

In Texas, serious bodily injury means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

What is a Driver’s Duty after Striking an Occupied Vehicle that Only Results in Vehicle Damage?

accidents involving another occupied vehicle

Every day in just about every city in the country, drivers are involved in accidents involving damage to occupied vehicles. Most likely, you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that resulted in vehicle damage. In Texas, if you are involved in an accident that results in damage to an occupied vehicle, you are required to:

  1. immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close as possible to the scene of the accident without obstructing traffic more than is necessary;
  2. immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident;
  3. if the vehicle cannot be normally and safely driven shall immediately “by the quickest means of communication” give notice of the accident to law enforcement; and
  4. remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 023, which include:
    1. giving your name and address, the registration number of the vehicle you were driving, the name and contact information of the insurance company;
    2. showing your driver’s license if requested and available;
    3. providing any injured person reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements to transport the person to a doctor or hospital for treatment if it is apparent treatment is necessary or if they injured person requests transportation.
    4. Additionally, if an accident occurs on main lane, ramp, shoulder, median, or adjacent area of a freeway in a metropolitan area and each vehicle involved can be normally and safely driven, each operator must move their vehicle as soon as possible to a designated accident investigation site, if available, a location on the frontage road, the nearest suitable cross street, or other suitable location to minimize interference with freeway traffic. 

What is the Penalty for Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Only Damage to Vehicle?

Leaving the scene after hitting and damaging an occupied vehicle is a misdemeanor in Texas. The penalties are not as severe as if someone was hurt, but it can still result in arrest and a criminal record. What level misdemeanor depends on the amount of damage.

  • If the damage to the vehicle is $200 or more, it is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
  • If the damage to the vehicle is less than $200, it is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

What Should a Driver Do if they Strike an Unattended Vehicle in Texas?

It’s not uncommon for drivers to strike an unattended vehicle in a parking lot or come out of a store and notice a dent in their own vehicle. In Texas, subject to the limitations on where the accident took place listed at the top of this article, the law specifies that drivers must take responsibility for striking an unattended vehicle by immediately stopping and:

  • locating the owner of the unattended vehicle and giving that person their name and address of the driver; or
  • leave in a conspicuous place, or securely and visibly attach, a note giving their name and address and a statement of the circumstances of the collision.

Failing to provide this information is a Class C misdemeanor if the damage to all vehicles involved is less than $200. It’s a Class B misdemeanor if the damage to all vehicles involved is more than $200.

What about Hitting a Light Pole or Some Other Structure, Fixture or Highway Landscape?

Drivers who hit a light pole or guardrail or some other structure adjacent to a highway or landscape also have a duty under the law to report the accident by:

  1. taking reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of the property and give their name, address and registration number of the vehicle they were driving; and
  2. if requested and available, show their driver’s license to the person in charge of the property

 

Table: Punishment Ranges for Leaving the Scene of Accidents in Texas

Offense Penalty
Failure to Stop in Crash Involving Death of a Person Second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and  up to a $10,000 fine
Failure to Stop in Crash Involving Serious Bodily Injury Third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine
Failure to Stop in Crash Involving Minor Injury  

 

Imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for up to 5 years or confinement in the county jail for up to a year and up to a $5,000 fine.

Failure to Stop in Crash Resulting in More than $200 Damage to Occupied Vehicle  

 

 

Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.

 

 

 

Failure to Stop in Crash Resulting in Less than $200 to Occupied Vehicle Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine
Failure to Give Information in Crash Resulting in More than $200 Damage to Unattended Vehicles Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $2000 fine.
Failure to Give Information in Crash Resulting in Less than $200 Damage to Unattended Vehicles Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine.
Failure to Give Information in Crash Resulting in More than $200 in Damages to Fixture, Landscaping or Structure Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $2000 fine.
Failure to Give Information in Crash Resulting in Less than $200 in Damages to Fixture, Landscaping or Structure Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine.

Examples of Defenses in Hit and Run Cases

There are a number of possible defenses that can be raised in hit and run cases, including but not limited to: 

  • You did not know an accident involving damage, injury or death occurred. In order to commit the offense of failure to stop and render aid or failure to give information, the driver must know that he or she was involved in an accident involving death, injury or damage. This may seem obvious, but it sometimes it is not. For example, a driver may have thought they struck a pothole or hit an animal. There are a myriad of scenarios to suggest that the driver did not know an accident occurred.
  • Location. The Transportation Code offenses listed above do not apply to:
    • a private access way or parking area to a private residential property; or
    • a garage or parking lot for which a charge is made for storing or parking a motor vehicle;
    • private property.

What Should I Do if I was Involved in a Hit-and-Run?

If you or a loved one left the scene of an accident in which someone may have been injured or died or involved property damage, it’s imperative that you contact a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorney can intervene between you, the police and insurance company and protect your rights and, possibly, your freedom and criminal record.

Contact Us

Hit and run allegations should not be taken lightly. If you are facing arrest or have been charged with failure to stop and render aid or a related offense, contact an experienced attorney at Varghese Summersett today for a complimentary strategy session. During this call we will:

  • Discuss the facts of your case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

Call: (817) 203-2220

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