Not every accident is a five-car freeway pile-up. Bumping someone from behind at 10-15 miles per hour is also an accident.
And Georgia law says you can’t leave the scene of an accident, even if it’s a minor car crash. If you’re the driver who caused an accident, you need to fulfill your legal duties after the crash, or you could be charged with a hit and run.
Do you know what to do when you get into a car accident? Keep reading to learn what the law says.
1. Stop and pull over (when safe)
If you get in any type of accident, you need to pull to the shoulder or the side of the road when it’s possible and safe.
Pulling over allows you to both get out of the car safely and talk to fulfill your obligations.
Why should you pull over even if it’s minor and it doesn’t look like there’s much damage? You don’t know if there’s damage until you ask.
For example, tapping their bumper may have left a scratch or even a scuff. But what if the other driver had a baby in the backseat, and something fell and hit the baby upon impact? That’s much more serious than a scrape, and you won’t know what happened if you don’t stop and ask.
2. Exchange information
Here is where the Georgia Code kicks in.
If you get in an accident, Georgia Code 40-6-270 says you need to do the following to complete your legal duty:
- Exchange personal information (contact details, insurance details, registration information)
- Show them your driver’s license (if they ask)
- Help them if they’re injured, or if someone else in the vehicle is
- Call 911 if necessary
You need to do this if you’re involved in the accident and regardless of how it happened. You don’t even need to cause it for the law to apply. If someone hits you in traffic and sends you forward into the car in front of you, you still need to stop and provide your details.
The ins and outs of the accident can get worked out by the police.
If you don’t provide all these details, Georgia classifies it as a hit and run case. If you were both on the road and there’s property damage or injuries, a hit and run in Georgia is a felony. You could face up to five years in prison upon conviction and face fines, probation, and lose your license.
If you left the scene of an accident when there was no one in the car, it’s possible to argue the hit and run down to a misdemeanor. However, this isn’t guaranteed.
Other Details to Get at the Scene
If you can, get the names of any witnesses who also stop or who might’ve been on the sidewalk at the time of the accident. These witnesses can be important for insurance claims, even in minor accidents.
Additionally, if your phone is accessible, take photos of the scene, including any damage, the general area, and the traffic in the area at the time.
What Not to Do When Talking to the Other Drivers
Fulfilling your legal obligation is required to avoid a hit and run charge, but there are things you shouldn’t do when you talk to the other drivers and police or emergency services.
First, don’t make small talk, and don’t take the blame for the accident, no matter whose fault it is.
Second, if you’re injured, don’t minimize it. Accept medical treatment, and don’t say, “I’m fine.” You might be injured and not feel it yet.
3. Call the police
In Georgia, the Department of Driver Services says you need to call 911 when one of the following occurs:
- Personal injury
- Death of a passenger, driver, or pedestrian
- Property damage over $500
If it’s a minor car accident, you might not feel the need to call the police, particularly if no one was hurt, and there’s damage to a wing mirror or a scrape on the bumper.
However, calling the police from the scene is always the smart choice.
Why? Because the other driver could claim you left the scene without providing your details, which means you could get charged with a hit and run. In this case, it’s their word against yours, and the other driver has the upper hand because they called the police first.
It’s also important from an insurance perspective. The police report gives your insurance company hard evidence of what happened. You might think there’s a scratch on your bumper, but it could fall off 200 feet down the road. A police report will catch this and arm you with information.
The same is true of injuries. Often, the panic of the aftermath of an accident means people don’t feel their injuries. If you or the other driver is injured, then the insurance company might write your account off because if it was that serious, they’ll say, surely, you would’ve called the police.
This brings us to the final point: your insurance company may not pay out a claim without a police report. And if you’re in a position where the other driver lies to their own insurance company, you could end up in even more trouble. You’ll be out of pocket, and your rates could go up.
Always, always stop after a minor car crash
A minor car crash might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Georgia law says you must stop and provide your contact and registration details after any accident, even in the most minor of fender benders.
If you don’t, you could be reported for a hit and run, which is usually a felony under state law.
Were you involved in a car accident and now you’re unsure what to do next? Get in touch for a free case evaluation.