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Why shouldn't I leave the scene of a car accident?

Anyone who has ever been in a car accident knows how scary and overwhelming it is. Not only are people in these situations frazzled physically and emotionally, but their minds are often racing as they try to determine the logistics of dealing with insurance companies and getting their vehicle fixed or replaced.

In the heat of the moment it is essential, however, to remain at the scene of the accident, as failing to do so means violating the law in all U.S. states. The purpose of having this law in place is to ensure those involved in an accident provide assistance to injured individuals and disclose identification and insurance information.

Fleeing the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage and no injuries is a misdemeanor in most parts of the country, punishable by a fine of approximately $1,000 and up to one year of jail time. If an accident resulted in personal injury as well as property damage, the crime for fleeing is more severe. Finally, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a death is considered a felony in all 50 states.

There are a few exceptions to keep in mind. Witnesses and passengers, for example, can leave the scene of the accident. And, if a driver is incapacitated in any way, unaware of injury or property damage or believes that his life may be in danger if he remains at the scene, he is, in most cases, exempt from liability.

If you have been in an auto accident of any kind - or if you have been accused of leaving the scene of an accident - it's a good idea to contact a qualified car accident lawyer who can assist you through the court process.

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