Being in a car accident is a terrifying experience. In moments of intense panic, you might be tempted to drive away as fast as you can, hoping that nobody saw what happened. Maybe you assessed the scene and thought it was safe to leave. If you are not careful, you could make the accident worse by unknowingly committing a hit and run and jeopardize your liability with your insurer, and even risk jail time.
Hit and Runs - 8 Things All Drivers Need To Know
What is a hit and run accident?
When you think of hit and run accidents, do you imagine a vehicle speeding through a red light, striking a fellow motorist or even a pedestrian and then zooming off?
Well, there are hit and runs where there is vehicle damage and/or someone is injured. But hit and run can also be someone hitting a parked car and driving off.
At BlackboxMyCar, we have seen many footage of hit and run cases. Here are the things you think all drivers need to know.
1. A hit and run is a crime
Sec. 252 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada states that every person commits an offence who has the care, charge or control of a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft that is involved in an accident with another person or vehicle and, with intent to escape civil or criminal liability fails to stop the vehicle give his name, address and, where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance. The punishment can be as high as 5 years imprisonment or, when someone dies as a result of the collision, it can be life imprisonment!
Is hit and run a felony? Are there jail times?
Depending on a severity of the accident you are involved in - if you are caught leaving the scene of an accident you may be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada, or under provincial legislation, such as the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario and Alberta, or the Motor Vehicle Act in British Columbia.
When a driver is charged through the Highway Traffic Act it’s typically for a failure to remain at the scene of the accident and is generally processed as a traffic ticket. This is usually applicable when the driver hits someone’s car in a parking lot, or if the driver hits another car while they are driving and just keeps going.
Penalty under the Highway Traffic Act:
- A fine not less than four hundred (400) dollars and not more than two thousand.(2000.00) dollars.
- Imprisonment of up to 6 months.
- Seven (7) demerit points.
- Mandatory thirty day licence suspensions for novice drivers
- Possible licence suspension for up to two (2) years.
Criminal Code hit and run charges are mostly applied when the accident involves a pedestrian or cyclist. This is also the type of hit and run offence that could leave you the victim with serious injuries, from broken bones to paralysis or even death. If a driver is charged through the Criminal Code, it’s considered a criminal offence.
Penalty under the Criminal Code of Canada:
- Jail up to five years for serious offences/incidents
- Licence suspension prohibition for one (1) to three (3) years
- Criminal Record for Life
- Possible Fine
- Possible Probations, restitution or other conditions
Can I still be sued?
Yes! Not only will you face criminal charges if you fail to remain at the scene of the accident, but you will most likely be sued civilly as well — more than you may have faced had you not fled the scene of the accident. For example, you will most likely be sued for negligence (next to criminal negligence) in tort law. A charge of negligence in civil court is made worse when the driver flees the scene of the accident, because the driver had a duty of care toward the victim(s).
2. Always stop to check if you think you hit something
Accidents happen. The first thing you need to do is stay calm and assess the scene and the damage.
If you hit another vehicle or damaged someone’s property
If you hit another car, note the license place, make and model of the vehicle. If you hit someone else’s property, take down the address or location and note the property damage. Try to see if you can find the owner of the vehicle or property. If you are unable to find the owner, affix a note with your information to the damaged object. Leave your name, phone number and license plate number. You also need to file a police report and notify your insurance company.
If you hit someone
Call 9-1-1 for help. Keep in mind that failure to act that results in injury to the victim can lead to harsher charges, including vehicular manslaughter. If you don’t have a phone and/or need to leave the scene to get help - temporarily leaving the scene is usually not considered a hit and run offense provided you return to the scene.
3. You can be found guilty if you hit an animal
Accidents involving pets and farm animals are included in the Criminal Code. Farm animals such as cows, horses, donkeys and pigs are listed as “cattle” under the law - and if you hit one and don’t stop, it’s a criminal offence.
4. You need to call the police before filing a claim with your insurer
It’s important to report your hit and run accident to the police within 24 hours of the event in order to classify the accident as “not at fault.” If you wait longer than this time period, your insurance company won’t be willing to give you any compensation because they’ll see the accident as your fault.
Keep in mind that police reporting requirements for hit-and-run claims may vary between different police detachments around the province and/or country. Check with your local police department for more information.
For drivers in British Columbia, you also need to provide a written notice of the hit and run to ICBC as soon as you can and no later than six months after the accident. If you don't, your claim could be denied.
5. You must make all reasonable efforts to identify a hit and run driver
You're driving along, minding your own business, and suddenly you're sideswiped by the car next to you. The other driver doesn't bother to stop, and before you know it, the car's long gone. What do you do?
In the event you are the victim of a hit and run, your insurer can reject your claim if they ruled that you didn’t do enough to identify the hit and run driver.
For example, under the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act, you need to prove that you have made all reasonable efforts to identify the fleeing driver in the event of an accident. Talking to police or anyone nearby might help your case.
This is when having a dash cam on board can save the day. Don’t have a dash cam? Let’s hope that someone nearby had a dash cam that captured the incident.
6. You will be required to pay your collision deductible even if you’re not at fault
Unfortunately, hit and run accidents are the only times when you will be required to pay your collision deductible, even when it wasn’t your fault. With a hit and run, there is no other driver to hold responsible so your insurance company will be accountable for paying the damages that the hit and run driver caused.
Who pays for the damage and medical bills?
For example, if you live in British Columbia, you are covered up to $200,000 in the event of injury, death or property damage caused by a hit and run. If there are multiple claimants involved, the $200,000 would be split. You will have to pay a $750 deductible for hit-and-run damage to your vehicle or property, or your ICBC collision deductible, whichever is less. There is no deductible on ICBC coverage for injuries suffered in a hit and run. Your insurance premium will not be affected by a hit and run claim.
Would a hit and run claim raise my insurance premiums?
Many people may wonder if hit and run raise insurance. Making an insurance claim after another driver has damaged your vehicle in a hit and run should not have an impact on your premium as long as you have reported the incident to the police and your insurance company considers it a “not-at-fault” loss. But do keep in mind that any claim you make would go on your insurance record and claim frequency may affect what you pay for car insurance.
Would a hit and run offense raise my insurance premiums?
If you were the person who left the scene of an accident and caused a hit and run accident your insurer will almost indefinitely raise your rates and insurance premiums. If you caused the hit and run accident and were at fault your insurance company will consider you are a “high risk driver” to insure. Your insurance company may cancel your entire insurance policy if they consider you too much of a liability.
Another aspect to a hit and run case is if you have injured a pedestrian or killed someone else that was involved in the collision. If this is the case your insurer may not cover the legal fees because when you leave the scene of an accident you are breaking the law. If you were to be charged in a hit and run after seriously injuring or killing someone it would be virtually impossible for you to find another insurance company that would ever insure you because of the risk they would be taking to do so. Also, hit and run accidents can stay on your insurance record for at least 4 years or up to 7 years.
7. Witness accounts are crucial
In the event you don’t have a dash cam, or if you are unable to recall the description of the car and/or driver, do not engage in a car chase with them. Not only is it unsafe, you might miss getting eyewitness accounts or even dash cam footage.
Do keep in mind that you need to get the name and contact information of alleged witnesses. The policy and your insurer needs to be able to follow up with them to request a statement.
Are all witnesses credible?
No. Even if a witness did observe the hit and run accident, the witness’ testimony is helpful only if that person is credible - people can have different opinions and draw different conclusions even though they are observing the same event.
Instead of relying on unreliable or uncredible witnesses, why not get an unbiased one on board?
8. A dash cam can save you a lot of headaches
Trying to record as many details about the incident can be difficult, especially if you didn’t get a good look at the other driver. Information such as a description of the other care and drive, the time and location of the incident, the sequence of events, including which direction the car was headed after fleeing the scene - these are all information that you can get from a dash cam. Dash cams are made for situations like these.
A dash cam can also help in the event the hit and run happened when you’re away from your vehicle, ie. in a parking lot. Many dash cams offer parking mode recording - you may recall seeing the following terms in the dash cam’s user manual: parking mode, parking surveillance, sentry mode or parking guard; all these refer to the same time - the ability to record incidents when the car has been powered down.
What is parking guard on a dash cam?
There are many types of parking mode recording, the most common being motion and impact detection. When the dash cam detects that the car has been powered down, it will go into parking mode where the camera stands by for any action. Generally, motion and impact detection work hand-in-hand. Say, a car pulls into the parking stall in front of you, your dash cam’s motion sensor will be triggered. Your dash cam will go into standby mode - the camera will start to record. If the car should bump or hit your car, the impact sensors in your dash cam will be activated and your dash cam will continue to capture the incident and lock the recorded footage on to the microSD card so you can review it for all the details you need.
Parking mode recording is made possible either by hardwiring the dash cam to the vehicle’s fusebox or through an external battery pack. Learn more about parking mode here.
What is the best parking mode dash cam?
We recommend Thinkware, BlackVue or IROAD if you are looking for a dash cam with reliable parking mode. But if you are asking us which is the best parking mode dash cam, hands down the Thinkware U1000 with the optional Radar module.
With 4K UHD from the front-facing camera and 2K QHD from the rear, the U1000 is the highest resolution 2-channel dash cam system on the market. But what makes the U1000 the best parking mode dash cam is the optional radar module that unlocks ultra-high-frequency radar motion detection as well as Energy Saving Parking Mode with buffered recording.
Learn more about the Thinkware U1000 and the Radar module on our blog.
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