Hit-and-Run Accidents: The Penalties in Tennessee

Essentially, a hit-and-run is defined as a driver colliding with another vehicle, object, or person and leaving the scene without providing information or assistance. This is a highly illegal act, and the state takes it very seriously.

Hit-and-run accidents can result in serious injuries, property damage, and even fatalities. Because the at-fault party fled, the alleged victims and their families must bear the brunt of the physical, emotional, and financial consequences.

If you’ve been accused of a hit-and-run, you need to seek legal counsel right away. Here is a broad overview of Tennessee’s laws around fleeing the scene of a wreck.

Tennessee’s Hit-and-Run Punishments

Penalties vary depending on the circumstances and the severity of the accident, but they can range from fines to imprisonment.

For damages under $400, individuals may face a Class C misdemeanor which includes a maximum of 30 days of incarceration, a $50 fine, and mandatory driver's education classes.

Damages exceeding $400 can also result in a Class C misdemeanor. This also includes a maximum of 30 days incarceration and a $50 fine, but there is the additional penalty of license suspension.

Accidents involving physical injury or death may escalate to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, fines up to $2,500, and license suspension.

If it is determined that the individual should have known the accident could be fatal, they may be charged with a felony and face a prison sentence ranging from 1 to 6 years.

Criminal Charges vs. Civil Liability in a Hit-and-Run

As mentioned above, criminal liability depends on the severity and conditions of the accident.

Civil liability, on the other hand, is determined by the amount of damage caused. This can result in the alleged victim filing a lawsuit. Here, they will seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other related damages. Unlike a criminal case, the outcome of a civil case is not predetermined. It simply depends on how much the court believes the plaintiff deserves.

Effective Defenses Against Hit and Run Allegations

Deny Involvement

The most significant defense is to argue that you were not driving the vehicle in question. For example, if your car had been stolen at the time of the incident, you can use this fact to help prove your innocence.

Claim a Lack of Knowledge

Another strategy is to claim that you were unaware of being involved in an accident at all. It is possible to be on a crowded road on a rainy night, and, in the confusion of traffic, you didn’t even realize something had happened. If you did not know about the incident, you could argue that you did not commit a hit-and-run.

Claim an Emergency Response

If you were responding to an emergency, such as rushing someone to the hospital, you can use this fact as a defense. This strategy asserts that you had a valid reason for leaving the scene without providing assistance or information.

Prove a Lack of Damage or Injury

If there was no damage to the other person's property, and no one was hurt, you could argue that the incident does not qualify as a hit-and-run offense.

Claim Duress or Coercion

In some cases, individuals are forced or coerced into leaving the scene. This defense relies on proving that you should not be held liable due to external pressures.

If you’ve been accused of fleeing the scene of an accident, Patton & Pittman Attorneys is here to help. Set up a consultation with our team by calling (931) 361-4477 or contacting us online.

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