As a driver in Texas, it is smart to prepare for what you should do in case you get into a car accident. The odds of eventually getting into a crash are somewhat high; in 2019, one reportable crash occurred in Texas every 56 seconds (source: the Texas Department of Transportation). Knowing what to do ahead of time can make it easier to remember what steps to take in the stressful aftermath of a motor vehicle collision. One of the key things to do is exchange information.
What Does the Law Say?
Texas Transportation Code Section 550.021 states that in any accident involving personal injury or death, the operator of a motor vehicle must immediately stop the vehicle, determine if someone has been injured, and remain at the scene until he or she has rendered aid and exchanged all of the required information. Section 550.023 of the law lists the information that is necessary to exchange after a car accident in Texas.
- The driver’s name and address
- The vehicle registration number
- The name of the driver’s auto insurance company
- The operator’s driver’s license, if requested
The motor vehicle operator must give this information to anyone injured or the operator or occupant of the other vehicle involved in the crash. If the car accident involved striking an unattended vehicle, the driver must leave his or her name and address, as well as a short description of the collision, in a conspicuous place securely attached to the vehicle.
In addition, a driver involved in a car accident must immediately report the crash to the police if it resulted in someone’s injury or death or enough damage to a vehicle that it cannot be normally and safely driven. A police officer will file an accident report if a crash involves injuries, deaths or more than $1,000 in property damage.
Texas’ Hit-and-Run Laws
If a driver leaves the scene of a car accident in Texas without fulfilling his or her legal duties, including exchanging information with others, that driver has committed a hit-and-run crime. A hit-and-run is an offense that Texas lawmakers take seriously, as fleeing the scene of an accident could be detrimental to the health of someone injured in a crash. Failing to stop and render aid could put a victim at risk of suffering more serious personal injuries or dying.
According to state law, a hit-and-run crime is a second-degree felony if it results in the death of any person. It is a third-degree felony if it results in serious bodily injury. For a crash that only involves property damage, fleeing the scene without fulfilling a driver’s responsibilities is a class B or C misdemeanor depending on the extent of the damage. The penalties for a hit-and-run crime in Texas can include years in prison and expensive fines.
Why Is it Important to Exchange Information?
It is important to fulfill your responsibility to exchange information with others after a car accident in Texas if you wish to avoid a hit-and-run charge. However, it is also important to exchange information for your own use during an insurance claim. You will need the other driver’s information to file a claim for benefits for your medical bills and property repairs.
In Texas, a driver who causes a car accident will be responsible for paying damages. If you believe the other driver to be at fault, therefore, you will call his or her insurance company to file a claim. If you fail to get the other driver’s information at the scene of the crash, you may be unable to file a claim. For more information about what to do after a car accident in Texas, including how to handle the claims process, consult with a San Antonio car accident attorney near you.