Texas Penal Code for Accidents Involving Injury

It’s an all-too-frequent sight at a roadside accident. A driver hits another car, pauses, then speeds away from the scene. Maybe you have been the victim or even the perpetrator of such a situation. It’s a leftover from our childhood — if I don’t get caught, they won’t know I did it.

For drivers in Texas, leaving the scene of an injury accident comes with a high cost. Not only are drivers liable for the personal injury claims of the victims, but they can also be criminally charged.

Texas Transportation Code Frequently Asked Questions

The Texas Penal Code does not directly cover accidents resulting in injury. Instead, charges and penalties are set by the Texas Transportation Code. Sections 550.021 through 550.026 apply to all motor vehicle accidents.

What Do I Do If I’m Involved in an Accident?

Transportation code 550.021 states that if you are involved in an accident which causes serious injuries or death you must:

  • Stop as close to the scene as possible without impeding traffic
  • Return to the scene
  • Determine if anyone is injured or requires aid
  • Remain at the scene and provide aid until other assistance arrives

What Kind of Aid Do I Have to Provide the Accident Victim?

Transportation Code 550.023 requires you to “provide assistance.” You’re not expected to be an emergency doctor or paramedic. “Providing aid” in some cases may only mean calling 911 and waiting at the scene until rescue personnel arrive. But you must do that at the very least. Even if you did not cause the accident or do not believe that you did, you must contact the police and the fire department.

After you’ve called for help, you must remain on the scene until the authorities arrive. You must give your personal information, including your name, address, license number, and insurance information, to the police or state troopers. Do not leave until they tell you to do so.

What if Nobody Got Hurt?

If you’re in an accident in which nobody was hurt, you can leave, right? Wrong. Code 550.022 states that you must exit the roadway with the driver of the other vehicle. The other driver must call 911 and either request a tow or be directed to a crash investigation site. Only if the police instruct both of you to leave are you free to depart the location. 

What Happens if I Run Away?

Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense, and if anyone was injured or killed, it is a serious offense. Although it may seem that driving under the influence and causing an injury or death is serious enough, the penalty for fleeing the scene will be attached to whatever penalty you receive for the drunk driving charge. If anyone was injured and you didn’t call for assistance–even if someone else did–you could be looking at prison and a very expensive fine, or both.

  • Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death is a second degree felony. The penalty is two to 20 years in prison.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury is a third degree felony. The penalty is two to 10 years in prison
  • Leaving the scene of an accident with any other injury is punishable by one to five years in prison, a $5000 fine, or both.

What if I Ran Away and Nobody Was Hurt? 

If nobody was injured, failing to stop and call for assistance can still cost you. The nature of the offense is determined by the total amount of damage to the vehicles, and the threshold is surprisingly low.

  • If the total damages to both vehicles is less than $200, it is a Class C Misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $500.
  • If the total damages are more than $200, it becomes a Class B Misdemeanor, with up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2000, or both. Since denting a bumper or cracking a headlight can set you back nearly $1000 in a new car, fleeing a fender-bender will easily be a Class B Misdemeanor.
  • Even a misdemeanor offense will follow you for the rest of your life. It’s possible you may be able to have it expunged later, for additional time and cost. 

What Else Might Happen?

It’s possible you might not face these charges. If nobody was hurt and the damage was minor, you might not get any extra criminal charges because you fled the scene of the crime. (No guarantees) However, other things can happen that are no fun either.

  • Your license may be suspended. License suspensions are handled through the DMV. A DMV hearing is held separately from a criminal or civil hearing, and the magistrate may suspend your license or revoke it regardless of any other criminal charges.
  • Your insurance company may raise your rates or cancel your policy, and if so, it may be difficult to get new insurance.
  • The victim can still sue you in civil court for damages.

What to Do if You’ve Already Left the Scene

If you were in an accident and already fled the scene, it’s not too late to make things right. If you feel upset or guilty about what you did, that’s probably good, but don’t call the police and turn yourself in just yet.

  • Contact a criminal defense attorney. If you’ve already spoken with a personal injury lawyer, they may be able to steer you to a defense lawyer.
  • Don’t lie to anyone. Don’t lie to your personal injury attorney, your insurer, or the defense attorney. 
  • If you have already been contacted by police, don’t panic. Politely tell them you need to speak with your attorney first.

It’s important to have legal advice whenever you’re in a car accident, no matter who was at fault. Whether you left the scene or stayed to provide help and insurance information, you should speak with an attorney to protect your rights. You will need someone to review your insurance documentation and talk to the insurance company just as much as with the police. 

Getting legal counsel after an accident is always the best course of action. 


Common Locations of Car Accidents https://morrisdewett.com/car-accidents/where-car-accidents-occur/

Who Is At Fault for My Highway Accident? https://morrisdewett.com/car-accidents/highway-accidents/#who-is-at-fault-for-my-highway-accident

Parking Lot Accidents https://morrisdewett.com/car-accidents/parking-lot-accidents/

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