Massachusetts hit and run laws: What happens if someone does a hit and run?
- Massachusetts hit and run laws: What happens if someone does a hit and run?
- Massachusetts hit and run laws explained
Under Massachusetts hit and run laws section 24, leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging contact information or rendering reasonable assistance to anyone that needs it is a misdemeanor or felony. What you do before and after the accident determines the crime.
Quick take: Massachusetts hit and run laws
- A hit-and-run that results in property damage is a misdemeanor.
- You must report and accident within five days if it results in death, injury, or property damage amounting to $1000 or more.
- Massachusetts is a no-fault state.
- Hit and run involving death is a felony.
- Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove the vehicle and intentionally left the scene to avoid prosecution.
- G. L. c. 90 Section 24 (2) (a), leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage.
- G. L. c 90 section 24(2) (a 1/2) (1) leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury.
Massachusetts hit and run laws explained
Under G. L. c. 90 Section 24 (2) (a), and G. L. c 90 section 24(2) (a 1/2) (1), you are guilty of a hit and run if you knowingly leave the scene of an accident that results in property damage, injury, or death without stopping to check if anyone needs help, or without exchanging information. Upon arrest, the statute requires prosecutors to prove six elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused was the individual operating the vehicle at the time of the incident.
- You operated the vehicle on a public road or at a location where members of the public have access.
- You knowingly collided with an object, other vehicle, or person.
- That collision resulted in property damage, injury, or death.
- You knowingly left the scene.
- Your reason for leaving the scene was to avoid prosecution.
What are your legal obligations at the scene of an accident in Massachusetts?
After an accident, Massachusetts hit and run laws require you to immediately stop at the scene of an accident and give your name, address, and motor vehicle registration number to the struck person, property owner, or law enforcement officer. Note, a section of the statute reads:
“This duty is not satisfied by stopping at some remote place or by being passively willing to answer inquiries.”
Meaning, you must stop at the scene or close to it and remain there until you have fulfilled what the law requires of you. It is also worth noting section 5 of the statute that reads:
“The extent of the damage is not relevant except to the extent that it may be circumstantial evidence of whether or not the defendant knew that there had been a collision.”
Massachusetts hit and run laws: Misdemeanor offenses
If you are involved in an accident that only results in property damage in Massachusetts. Fleeing the scene is a misdemeanor if you do not have priors or if you were sober at the time of the accident. Upon conviction, a misdemeanor hit and run in Massachusetts is punishable by mandatory minimum imprisonment for six months and a maximum sentence of two years. The court may also impose a fine between $500 to $1000.
Note: If you have priors, or if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol and the victim dies or suffers a serious injury, the charge may escalate into a felony.
It is also worth noting that a misdemeanor conviction hit and run in Massachusetts will result in license suspension for one year for a first offense. For a second offense, the suspension period is two years.
What happens if you hit a parked vehicle in Massachusetts?
If no one in the vehicle suffers injury or if there is no one in the vehicle, leaving the scene turns the accident into a misdemeanor.
What if you cannot find the owner of the vehicle?
If the resulting damage does not amount to at least $1000, you may leave a note on a conspicuous section of the vehicle containing your name, address, and contact information. Remember, if anyone suffers injury or the damage is above $1000, you have a legal obligation to make a reasonable effort to find the property owner. That leads to the question:
What is a reportable accident in Massachusetts?
Under section 26, “accident reports,” you must report any accident that results in injury, death, or property damage amounting to more than $1000 within 5 days. The report must be in writing and filed at the registrar.
Note, the five-day period only applies to drivers who are unable to file a report after the accident due to incapacitation or injury. That means if you are capable, you should notify law enforcement of the accident immediately and file a report as soon as possible.
In short, in Massachusetts, you must report an accident if:
- Anyone suffers injury or death
- If the resulting damage is more than $1000.
Massachusetts hit and run laws: felony offenses
Leaving the scene of an accident that results in death or serious injury in Massachusetts is a felony that carries a minimum sentence of 1 year. Note, if anyone suffers injury after an accident in the state, you have a legal obligation to render reasonable assistance to that person.
To whom must you give your information?
Section 2 of Massachusetts hit and run laws section 24, “leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury,” states that you should give your information to the injured person or a public officer if the injured person is incapable of receiving the information.
DUI hit and run in Massachusetts
If the person operating the vehicle was on drugs or under the influence of alcohol, prosecutors may pursue manslaughter charges if the victim dies. Vehicular manslaughter is a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison and license revocation, ranging from 15 years to permanent revocation.
What is the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident in Massachusetts?
- Hit and run, property damage/ failure to report within 5 days: punishable by up to two years in prison and license suspension for up to 60 days.
- Hit and run, personal injury, punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1000.
- Death/serious injury hit and run: felony, carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison.
- DUI hit and run, death: felony, carries a maximum sentence of twenty years, and permanent license suspension.
Note: The difference between vehicular homicide and manslaughter is that the former requires intention and the latter is accidental, meaning, if you had a motive to kill or injure someone, you will likely face homicide charges.
Administrative and civil penalties for leaving the scene of an accident in Massachusetts
Fulfilling your legal obligations at the scene of an accident may help you avoid criminal charges; however, it does not prevent the injured persons from taking civil action against you. Consequently, if you are the victim of a hit and run, you may sue the driver that struck you for negligence or to recover:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- future earnings
- emotional distress
We recommend contacting an attorney because the clock starts ticking immediately after the accident.
What is the statute of limitations on accidents in Massachusetts?
If the accident results in property damage, you have three years starting from the time of the accident to file a suit in the civil system. The same period applies to death or injury. Note, the clock starts ticking right after the victim dies.
Massachusetts hit and run laws: How is fault determined in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts is a no-fault state. Thus, after an accident, you should file a claim with your insurer under your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage.
The state of Massachusetts follows a “modified comparative fault” rule that only allows the claimant to recover damages if the individual is less than 50% responsible for the accident. That means that if you share the bulk of the responsibility for the accident. Then you do not qualify for compensation.
That makes it vital to know what to say and do immediately after a traffic collision.
What to do after an accident in Massachusetts
- do not admit fault.
- Gather evidence and take plenty of photos of the scene.
- If the other driver flees, write down a description of the driver, car make, color, and anything else that may aid the police.
- Seek medical assistance and do not comment about your health before getting an expert opinion.
- Gather witness testimonies, information, and dashcam footage if possible.
- Do not threaten or harm the other driver.
Massachusetts hit and run laws: defenses
If you are involved in a reportable accident in Massachusetts, you must contact an attorney and start building your defense immediately. You need to avoid saying or doing anything that may shift blame to you or anything the other party may use as proof of negligence. That means you must stop at the scene, render reasonable assistance to anyone that needs it, call law enforcement, and never leave the scene without gathering any useful information that you may use in your defense.
Remember, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the one behind the wheel and then you intentionally or knowingly left the scene.
What if you feared for your safety?
Your health and wellbeing trump your obligations at the scene of an accident. Consequently, if there is a valid threat at the scene, for example, if the other driver brandishes a weapon, becomes violent, and so on, you may use “fear for your safety” as a defense if the case goes to trial.
Other defenses include:
- You were not behind the wheel at the time of the accident.
- The other person refused to exchange information, threatened you, or suffered no injuries or loss.
- You, leaving the scene was not voluntary.
- You were not aware of your involvement in an accident.
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