What Happens If You Commit a Hit and Run?

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No one expects to be in a car accident. But when you are involved in one, you might panic in the heat of the moment and drive away before anyone sees you. If you fail to remain or stop at the scene of an accident, you have committed a hit and run.

People might flee the scene of an accident they were involved in for many reasons. Most common is that they want to avoid the consequences stemming from the incident, especially if someone was seriously injured due to the accident.

Read this article to know more about hit and runs and what happens when you commit a hit and run.

What is a Hit and Run?

A hit and run are essentially leaving the scene of a car accident without stopping to identify yourself and help anyone who might need it. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident in the first place. The crime is committed if you leave the scene.

A hit and run can occur if you hit a car while trying to park, get into a collision, hitting a cyclist or pedestrian. In the latter incidents, the crime can be much more serious as a collision with a cyclist or pedestrian usually leads to severe injuries.

Drivers must provide as much assistance as possible to all those involved in the accident and provide information to the police or the victim. Finally, the driver report to the police if damages exceed $1,000.

Therefore, anyone who fails to remain at the scene of an accident has committed a hit and run, which is punishable by law. Penalties may be especially severe if a victim has sustained serious injuries.

Another thing to note is that if you have committed a hit and run, the authorities can charge you up to six months after the incident.

What are the Penalties for a Hit and Run?

An important thing to note is that the police can potentially charge you under two different laws in Canada, the Provincial Traffic Acts, such as the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) in Ontario, and the Federal Criminal Code.

The HTA is enforced when the driver has “failed to remain” at the scene, and the federal charges are levied against drivers who were involved in severe crashes and “failed to stop.”

Under the Highway Traffic Act, people who were directly or indirectly part of an accident and are then convicted of willfully leaving the scene may face:

  • Up to six months in jail
  • Mandatory suspended license (for new drivers)
  • Possible license suspension between six months to two years (for all drivers)
  • Seven demerit points on their driving profile (the highest allowed under the highway traffic act)
  • Fines between $500 to $2,500
  • Increases in car insurance rates (no longer qualifying for standard insurance rates)

Offences in roadways are charged under the HTA, whereas “failure to stop” violations under the federal criminal code occur anywhere. Anyone who is in the control of a vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or even cattle and has failed to stay at the scene of an accident could face federal charges, which include:

  • A lifelong criminal record
  • License suspension (anywhere from one to 10 years)
  • Up to five years in jail for minor or unknowing physical harm to another person
  • Up to 10 years in jail where bodily harm was knowingly caused to another person
  • Probation or other conditions after release
  • Fines or compensation to the victims
  • Commercial driver penalties (up to five CVOR Points)

These are not the only penalties you could face for committing a hit and run. Victims can also pursue further criminal charges and/or compensation due to the injuries or loss of life resulting from the accident.

Why Do People Commit Hit and Runs?

In most cases, if you are leaving the scene of an accident, you are signalling that you fear being arrested for causing the accident. Or you do not want to risk facing further penalties such as a DUI if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The most common reasons why a driver will flee the scene of an accident include:

  • The driver did not have a license or a valid one
  • The driver was impaired by substances such as drugs or alcohol
  • The driver struck a pedestrian or a cyclist
  • The driver is in the country illegally
  • The driver has prior arrests or has outstanding warrants
  • The driver is driving without insurance

The most important thing you must consider is that no matter your reason for committing a hit and run, you will likely face much harsher penalties than you would have if you remained at the scene.

What Should You Do If you Were Involved in a Hit and Run?

If you were involved in a hit and run accident, you should do the following:

  • Collect as much information as possible, including the time, date, and location of the accident. Take photographs or videos of damage to your vehicle, especially if you have the other car’s paint on yours.
  • Collect as much information about the guilty driver and their vehicle as possible, including car model and colour, license plate number, and a driver’s description.
  • Find a witness who might have seen the accident occur and who can corroborate or add to the information. You should note down the witness’ contact information as well.
  • Call the police immediately to make a report and provide them with the information you have collected so that they can apprehend the driver as soon as possible.
  • After making the police report, provide your insurance firm with a copy to establish a timeline of the incident, which may help you make the insurance claim. As many insurance providers require you to report within 24 hours, it is better not to take chances and notify immediately.

What are Your Legal Obligations Following a Hit and Run?

Most provinces in Canada have rules that obligate drivers to follow a few steps when an accident occurs, regardless of who is at fault and whether or not any property was damaged or any injury occurred.

Under the Traffic Safety Act, you must:

  • Exchange license plate, contact, and insurance information with the other driver
  • Provide all assistance that may be necessary
  • Wait for and speak to the police if applicable
  • Immediately return to the scene of the accident
  • If the struck vehicle was unattended, leave your insurance and contact information

Even if you think you have followed these obligations correctly, you still may have a complaint filed against you. In that case, you must hire an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.


A hit and runs are a serious crime. If you or your loved one was involved in a hit-and-run accident, you must seek the guidance of an experienced lawyer so that they might fight for your rights and guide you through what might be a difficult case.

Hopefully, this article successfully provided you with an overview of what happens when you commit a hit and run so that you successfully defend yourself against a charge.



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