When it is safe to leave the scene of an accident?

Under Rhode Island law, any driver involved in an accident or who had reason to believe he or she was involved in an accident must stop. For example, leaving the scene when someone is hurt can lead to penalties such as driver's license suspension, fines and imprisonment. If stopping at the scene itself would be unsafe, drivers are allowed to stop as close as possible, and they should take every care to minimize the disruption of traffic.

So, you have stopped at the scene, consulted with the other driver involved in the accident, and there appear to be no injuries or damage. The both of you agree it is okay to leave. Is it?

He said, she said

Sometimes, it is perfectly fine to leave when both drivers are sure there are no injuries or damage. However, if you leave the scene in such a situation, you open yourself up to alternative interpretations later. For example, suppose the other driver gets home and decides he or she could make a quick buck, perhaps telling police there was beer in your car and a smell on your breath. Or, the driver gets home and damage or injury becomes evident. For whatever reason, the driver then tells the police you left the scene without his or her permission. If you want to cover all your bases, it is wise to contact police and/or an attorney before you leave the scene or immediately after doing so.

Unattended vehicles

The situation may get trickier if it is an unattended vehicle you hit, even if there is no apparent damage. You could get recorded on cameras leaving the scene, for example. To be safe, leave a note with your contact information, name and an overview of what happened. If feasible, you may want to try to find the driver. For example, if it happened in a restaurant parking lot, you could return inside and ask the hostess to track down the owner of the car with a specific license plate number.

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Nicholas J. Hemond Attorney at Law
1 Turks Head Place, 12th Floor
Providence, RI 02903

Phone: 401-648-6509
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