If you get into a traffic accident, your insurance company isn’t the only one who needs to know.
Under Tennessee “hit and run” law, you may be required to take several different steps to notify the government and/or the other driver about the accident. Some of these requirements apply immediately, and the failure to abide by them can result in criminal charges.
Note that this post is limited to your legal responsibilities after being in a car wreck. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, please refer to our post on 5 Important Things To Do If Injured in a Car Accident.
Important Steps At the Scene of the Accident
The first thing you are required to do after an accident is stop, either at the scene of the accident or as close as possible so that traffic is obstructed as little as possible (T.C.A. 55-10-102). If the extent of property damage or bodily injury appears to exceed $50, you must immediately contact law enforcement (T.C.A. 55-10-106).
Your further responsibilities depend on what has been hit:
- Car with injured driver/passenger: you must share your information (including name, address, and vehicle registration number), and render reasonable assistance such as carrying the person to safety or calling 911 (T.C.A. 55-10-103).
- Unattended vehicle: you must share your information either by finding that vehicle’s owner or leaving written notice about the driver and owner of the vehicle, and the insurance policy (T.C.A. 55-10-104).
- Fixture or other property near a road (such as a street sign): You must contact the person, company, or government agency in charge of the property and share your person information (T.C.A. 55-10-105).
What to Do After the Accident
If you are the driver of a car involved in an accident resulting in injury or total property damage over $400, you must file a report to the Department of Safety within 20 days (T.C.A. 55-10-107). This law applies even if the accident was not your fault and all of the damage is to your own vehicle. Additionally, your insurance company may require that you report the accident to them as soon as possible.
Failure to Follow Rules = Hit and Run
If you caused a traffic accident and did not immediately follow the rules above, you may have already broken the law. This is known as a “hit and run” or “leaving the scene of an accident.” If someone was killed or seriously hurt in the accident or if you were intoxicated while driving, you could face additional criminal liability. Accordingly, it is a good idea to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights and obligations.
The requirements discussed above are just a summary of the law and should not be relied upon as legal advice.