Can You Go to Jail for an Accident?

ELI5: Negligence

Can you go to jail for a car accident? What about a hit and run, can you go to jail for a hit and run? Normally, accidents don’t result in jail time. But in some cases, accidents can have criminal consequences. Keep reading to find out more. 

Intentional Conduct 

If you intentionally do something dangerous, and it causes a car crash, you could face legal ramifications of such behavior, regardless of whether or not you intended to actually cause the injuries the person sustained. Intentional conduct is a term of art—or, if you’d prefer, “legalese”—that in short refers to intentional actions (or lack thereof). For example, if you leave out a banana peel for your friend to slip on as a prank, that could be considered intentional conduct if they slip, fall, and sustain injury. When people are sued for a personal injury claim, they’re being accused of negligence. When a person is legally considered to be negligent, it means they had a duty, breached their duty, and that breach of duty caused the plaintiff to sustain damages. Basically, it means that a person did not take reasonable precautions necessary to prevent injury. If you intentionally act in a way that causes someone else to sustain injury, there is a chance that you could be prosecuted for such behavior.  

Reckless Behavior 

The legislature has decided that, in some cases, negligence is so extreme that it’s actually considered to be criminal. In cases such as the aforementioned, the negligent party could face criminal charges. For example, let’s say a person leaves their child in a hot car for hours on end because they ran into the store to “grab one thing,” and they forgot their child was in the car. In this case, the parent may be arrested for criminal negligence, especially if the child ended up sustaining fatal injuries. While the parent did not mean to kill the child, their negligence has lead to the child sustaining fatal injuries. Criminal negligence may or may not result in jail time. Whether or not a person will actually serve time in prison for criminal negligence will depend on their circumstances.  

Hit and Run 

While you may not go to jail for causing a car accident, you could go to jail for a hit and run, especially if the result was a fatality. Regardless of whether or not you were at fault for the accident, it is important that you cooperate and remain at the scene of the accident. A lot of times, a person flees the scene when they’ve accidentally hit a pedestrian. While it’s understandable to be concerned about the potential consequences, it’s important to understand that jail time for accidentally hitting a pedestrian is unlikely, unless you were impaired by drugs or alcohol, or engaging in reckless or negligent behavior at the time of the accident. However, if you hit a pedestrian, and you flee the scene of the accident, jail time is much more likely, especially if the accident results in a fatal injury. If you accidentally cause a car crash stay on the scene and cooperate with the police. It is unlikely that you will go to jail for an accident, especially if you were not impaired or engaging in reckless behavior at the time of the crash. 

Impaired Driving 

If you cause an accident due to impairment, you may face criminal consequences that you wouldn’t have faced if you had been sober at the time of the accident. For example, if you’re driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you are already doing something that’s criminal. If it ends up that you cause a fatal car accident, you may be charged with vehicular manslaughter amongst other charges in addition to the original charge. Criminal charges can be “enhanced” if there are multiple crimes committed, or if one crime leads to a second criminal act.  Depending on where you’re located, you could be facing over ten years in jail for causing a fatal accident while under the influence of alcohol. Not only that, but you’d have to live the rest of your life knowing that your negligence caused the death of another person. Driving under the influence is not worth it. If you’re not sober, and you need to get home, there are alternatives. Stay at a friend’s house, get an Uber, or refrain from drinking altogether. 

But I Can’t Afford It! 

Most people can’t afford the cost of an accident; that’s why insurance exists. When you pay insurance each month, you’re paying for the insurance to cover you (up to the policy limit) when you cause an accident. In most cases, your insurance company will provide you with an attorney for your defense if a personal injury claim is filed against you. While you could be liable for an car accident, your car insurance will likely pay any settlement or judgment against you, up to the policy limit. The insurance company will also negotiate with the injured party (or party representing the injured party) and attempt to reach a settlement on your behalf so that the case doesn’t have to go to court. The same goes for homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance when accidents happen on your property. 

When You’re Looking for a Car Accident Lawyer 

If you’re looking for a car accident lawyer you can trust, Moxie Law Group is here for you. If you’ve sustained injury in a car accident, contact one of us today to get started on your personal injury claim. 


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