How Missouri Law Handles Hit and Run Accidents

A hit and run accident in Missouri is defined as a situation where one person involved in an incident involving vehicles flees the scene without providing contact information or rendering aid to anyone who might need assistance. This action is not only considered irresponsible but is also criminal under Missouri law. Common scenarios include a driver striking another vehicle, a pedestrian, or private property and then leaving without stopping to address the situation.

Missouri law is clear about the obligations of individuals involved in vehicle accidents. If an accident results in injury, death, or significant property damage, the persons involved are required to stay at the scene. They must exchange pertinent information including names, addresses, vehicle registration numbers, and show their driver’s licenses if requested. 

When a driver fails to meet these obligations and leaves the scene, it constitutes a hit and run. The state imposes serious penalties for those who commit this offense, which can range from fines and points against the driver’s license to felony charges in the case of serious injury or fatality.

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Missouri’s Hit and Run Laws

Missouri mandates strict adherence to its hit and run laws, which impose both legal obligations and penalties to safeguard the rights of accident victims.

Legal Definition and Obligations

Under Missouri law, a hit and run incident occurs when a driver involved in a vehicular accident resulting in property damage, injury, or death, leaves the scene without performing certain duties. These obligations include:

  • Providing Aid: If there are injuries, reasonable assistance must be provided. This could mean calling for medical help if it appears needed or requested by the injured person.
  • Exchanging Information: Drivers must exchange their name, address, vehicle registration number, and display their driver’s license if requested.
  • Notification to Police: In accidents involving injury, death, or significant property damage, drivers are required to immediately notify the police.

Compliance with these directives is mandatory regardless of who caused the accident.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failure to fulfill the legal obligations following a hit and run can lead to serious consequences. In Missouri, the severity of penalties depends on the outcome of the accident:

  • Property Damage Only: If the accident results in property damage alone, leaving the scene is considered a Class A misdemeanor, potentially resulting in fines and jail time.
  • Injury or Death: If the accident results in injury or death, the offense is elevated to a felony, carrying significant fines and a possibility of imprisonment.

Missouri’s justice system aims to discourage hit and run behaviors by imposing stringent penalties, thereby promoting responsible conduct and protection for all parties involved in vehicular accidents.

Navigating the Aftermath of a Hit and Run

In Missouri, dealing with the consequences of a hit and run involves prompt action, detailed evidence gathering, and navigating insurance and legal processes. These steps are critical to ensuring accountability and fair compensation.

Immediate Steps to Take Following an Incident

Immediately after a hit and run accident, the victim should ensure their safety and call 911. It is essential to down pertinent information, such as:

  • Vehicle description: make, model, color
  • License plate number, if possible
  • Time and precise location of the accident
  • Direction in which the fleeing vehicle was heading

These immediate actions help in safeguarding one’s rights and preparing for subsequent claims.

Evidence Collection and Reporting

Collecting evidence is crucial. Victims or witnesses should take photographs of the:

  • Damages to the vehicle
  • Accident scene
  • Any bodily injuries
  • Skid marks, debris, and vehicle parts

Contacting law enforcement is a must, as a police report is vital for insurance claims and potential legal actions. The Missouri statutes require that accidents resulting in injury, death, or significant property damage must be reported.

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Insurance Claims and Legal Actions

Missouri residents should promptly notify their insurance provider of the hit and run. Insurance companies may require a police report and evidence of the accident. Understanding the policy terms is key, as uninsured motorist coverage can play a crucial role.

Legal action might be necessary, especially if the perpetrator is identified. A lawyer can advise on steps such as filing a civil suit for damages. Missouri’s statutes of limitation dictate that legal action must be taken within a certain time frame after the accident.

Seeking Justice and Compensation

Victims of hit and run accidents in Missouri have avenues to help with criminal charges and civil recourse. They can pursue compensation for damages as well as support from the legal system against perpetrators.

Civil Remedies and Compensation

In Missouri, individuals affected by a hit and run can seek compensatory relief. Damages potentially covered include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost earnings

The claims process generally requires victims to identify the at-fault party, which can be challenging in hit and run cases. However, victims may also turn to their own uninsured motorist coverage in situations where the responsible driver is not apprehended.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the claims process:

  1. Report the incident to the police immediately.
  2. Seek medical attention and document all injuries.
  3. Collect evidence, such as photos of the scene and witness statements.
  4. Notify the insurance company to initiate the claim.
  5. Consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in Missouri law.

An attorney can navigate through the complexities of filing a claim and, if necessary, escalating the matter to a lawsuit to fight for the victim’s rightful compensation.

Criminal Charges and Legal Defense

A hit and run is a criminal offense in Missouri. Anyone involved in an accident is required by law to stop at the scene. Failure to do so can result in:

  • Misdemeanor charges for property damage only.
  • Felony charges if the accident led to personal injury or death.

Legal defense plays a critical role for both victims seeking accountability and alleged offenders facing charges. For victims, assistance from a prosecutor can bring the perpetrator to justice. For the accused, a defense attorney can ensure their rights are protected throughout legal proceedings. The accused might argue lack of knowledge about the accident, mistaken identity, or other factors as part of their defense.