Understanding the Civil and Criminal Results of a Motor Vehicle Accident

If you cause a car accident or another type of motor vehicle accident, you can face a variety of consequences. Many people know that they can face traffic violations that could become costly if they are at fault in a motor vehicle accident. But did you know that you can be charged with a serious crime — one that can result in jail time and other consequences — if you flee the scene of an accident?

What Is the Law in Massachusetts About Fleeing the Scene of a Car Accident?

Massachusetts law requires that individuals who are involved in a motor vehicle accident must stop and provide specific information to the others involved in the incident. Specifically, individuals involved in the accident must stop and provide:

  • Their full name
  • Their home address
  • The registration number of the motor vehicle involved in the incident

Massachusetts further defines this requirement in documents about leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury. It notes that stopping at some remote location does not satisfy the requirement of this law. Furthermore, the individual involved in the accident must provide the above information to the person who was injured or to a representative of that person. If a law enforcement officer or other public official is at the scene, the information can be provided to them.

The law does state that several factors must be demonstrated by the prosecution before someone can be convicted of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident. These are true whether the accident involved damage to property only or also included personal injury.

  • The person in question must have been operating a motor vehicle at the time of the accident
  • The person must have operated the vehicle in a public place or in a location where other members of the public would reasonably be
  • The person collided with another car, a piece of property, or a person
  • The person should reasonably have known that the collision occurred
  • The person did not stop to provide the necessary information as listed above

What Penalties Might You Face if You Leave the Scene?

If you are charged with and convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, you can face jail time, fines, and the loss of your driver’s license. The outcome of the accident — whether it caused only property damage, caused personal injury to another person, or included a fatality — can impact the level of sentence you might face.

Typically, you may face 2 weeks to 10 years of incarceration, depending on the facts of your case. You can also face a fine of $20 to $5,000 depending on the outcome of the accident. You will likely lose your license temporarily if you are convicted and may face other penalties, including fees and probation.

What Are Some Other Consequences Associated With Causing a Car Accident?

Accidents on the roadway can be complex issues. If you are the person who is at fault in the accident, it’s important to do the right thing and stop to provide your contact information. This can reduce the criminal charges you might face as a result of the accident.

Often, people who do stop as they are supposed to don’t face criminal charges other than potential traffic tickets for any violation that may have led to the accident. That’s not the case if you are found to have been operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, however. There are a few other cases where serious reckless operation of a motor vehicle might be deemed to be criminal in nature.

However, in many cases, the consequences someone faces after causing a car accident are civil in nature. This means that anyone else who was injured in the accident might file a lawsuit against you to seek compensation for the damages and injuries they incurred in the accident. Civil cases don’t include the threat of jail time, but they can be stressful nonetheless, as they may substantially impact your financial status in the future.

It’s important to note that it’s possible to face both civil and criminal consequences after an auto accident, depending on the facts of your case.

Do You Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?

There are several times you may want a lawyer after a car accident. Here is a quick summary of some of the most common scenarios a lawyer can help with:

  • You were injured and would like to sue for damages. In this case, you would want a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in car accident cases. They can work on your behalf to gather evidence to support your case, file the appropriate documents and legal briefs, and negotiate with insurance companies and other parties.
  • You are being sued and need help with your defense. In such a case, you would want a personal injury defense lawyer who understands how to protect the rights and interests of clients who are being sued.
  • You are facing criminal charges related to the accident. This is not a personal injury matter, so you would want a lawyer who has experience with the criminal justice system and understands how best to protect your rights and future.

At Contant Law, we take on both personal injury and criminal law cases. If you were involved in an accident and are facing any of these situations, give us a call to find out how we can help. Call Contant Law at 617-221-8221 to make an appointment.