If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, your ticket might actually say: “failure to give information and render aid.”
What does that mean?
Charges for “leaving the scene of an accident” cover six possible scenarios, ranging in severity from leaving the scene of an accident where someone was killed to driving off after hitting a fixture on the side of the road.
But can you never leave the scene of an accident? Do you have to remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives? The elements of each type of leaving the scene of an accident charge involve more than just leaving the scene – there is a “duty to give information and render aid” before leaving the scene of an accident.
What Does “Failure to Give Information and Render Aid” Mean?
Should you remain at the scene of an accident until police arrive? Absolutely – if you don’t, you are running the risk of getting arrested and prosecuted for leaving the scene.
Does the law require you to remain at the scene until police arrive? No…
For each “degree” of leaving the scene charges, there are specific requirements for giving information and rendering aid. There is no requirement that you remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives.
For example, if you are involved in an accident that resulted in someone’s injury, you are required to “remain at the scene of the accident until [you have] fulfilled the requirements of Section 56-5-1230.”
SC Code Section 56-5-1230 does not say, “remain at the scene of the accident until law enforcement arrives:”
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall give his name, address and the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall upon request and if available exhibit his driver’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or making arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.
Before you can legally leave the scene of an accident that resulted in injury, death, or property damage to an attended vehicle, however, SC law requires that you provide:
- Your name,
- Your address,
- The registration number of your vehicle,
- Your driver’s license, and
- Reasonable assistance to any person who was injured.
What is Reasonable Assistance?
“Reasonable assistance” means that if anyone is injured in the accident and 1) “it is apparent” that medical assistance is necessary or 2) the injured person asks for help, you must either take them to the hospital or call for EMS to transport them to the hospital.
You should remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives, and police, prosecutors, and judges will expect you to remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives, but…
If you have provided the required information and made arrangements for the medical care of anyone who was injured, you have complied with the requirements of SC law.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Failure to Give Information and Render Aid
There are different requirements, or “duties of driver,” for each “degree” of leaving the scene charges, including leaving the scene 1) when there is an injury or death, 2) when there is damage to an attended vehicle, 3) when there is damage to an unattended vehicle, and 4) when there is damage to a fixture.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident when Someone is Injured
When an accident results in any injuries or death, SC Code Section 56-5-1210 requires the driver to remain at the scene until they have complied with the requirements of Section 56-5-1230 (see above):
The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of a person immediately shall stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible. He then shall return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of Section 56-5-1230.
You can temporarily leave the scene if that is necessary to report the accident to authorities – for example, if no one at the scene has a cell phone or there is no cell service in the area.
There are three “degrees” of leaving the scene with injury or death:
- When there are minor injuries only, it is a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum of 30 days and up to one year in prison.
- When great bodily injury results (bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ), it is a felony punishable by a minimum of 30 days and up to ten years in prison.
- When death results, it is a felony punishable by a minimum of one year and up to 25 years in prison.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Damage to an Attended Vehicle
If the accident resulted in property damage only and someone is in the other vehicle, you must comply with the requirements of section 56-5-1230 to give information and render aid (see above).
If a person leaves the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage only where the other vehicle was attended before giving the required information, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.
Note that if there is property damage only, there is no requirement to “render aid,” and SC law only requires that you provide the information listed in 56-5-1230 before leaving the scene.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Damage to an Unattended Vehicle
What if you hit an unattended vehicle and there is no one to give the information to?
SC Code Section 56-5-1240 requires that you either:
- Locate the owner or operator of the vehicle and provide them with your name and address, or
- “[L]eave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck” a note with your name and address and a description of what happened.
Failure to either locate the owner or to leave a note with the required information is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
Leaving the Scene After Striking a Fixture
If you hit an unattended vehicle, you have the option of leaving a note. If you hit a fixture on the side of the road, however, Section 56-5-1250 requires that you:
…take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of such property of such fact and of his name and address and of the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall upon request and if available exhibit his driver’s license and shall make report of such accident when and as required in Section 56-5-1270.
Failure to “take reasonable steps” to locate and notify the owner or to report the accident as required by 56-5-1270 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
Requirement to Report Accidents
In addition to the requirements listed above, there are two additional reporting requirements after an accident:
- Section 56-5-1260 requires that you notify law enforcement “immediately by the quickest means of communication” if there is an injury or death, and
- Section 56-5-1270 requires that 1) if the accident was not investigated by law enforcement and 2) if there was property damage greater than $1000, you must “forward a written report and verification of liability insurance coverage of the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles” within 15 days after the accident.
Leaving the Scene Defense Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident or failure to give information and render aid, you may have defenses that you are not aware of and you may have options that will allow you to avoid a conviction or prison time.
The Myrtle Beach criminal defense attorneys at Coastal Law may be able to help you get your ticket dismissed, negotiate a plea to a lesser offense that does not involve prison time, or try your case to a jury.
Schedule a free consultation by completing our online form or by calling us at (843) 488-5000.