Accident in Parking Lot Becomes Misdemeanor

published by Andrew Flusche on September 16, 2010

The other day at Lowe’s I saw two cars hit each other. Both drivers were backing out of the parking spots. I didn’t see who started backing out first.

The damage was extremely minor. One of the vehicles was a truck with a trailer hitch. It punched a small hole in the other (smaller) car’s bumper.

Here’s the crazy part: both drivers got out, looked at their bumpers, and walked away. They didn’t exchange insurance information or even speak to each other from what I could see.

They potentially committed misdemeanors by driving away.

In Virginia, drivers involved in accidents have duties to stop and report. Otherwise, you could be charged with “hit and run” or “leaving the scene of an accident.”

Your precise duty depends upon the nature of the accident. In the example I mentioned above, both drivers hit attended property (each other’s vehicles). Thus, they were required to follow 46.2-894. That requires them to:

  1. Stop as close to the scene as possible without obstructing traffic.
  2. Report their name and ID information to law enforcement and the other drivers involved.
  3. Render aid to anyone injured.

The drivers did stop, and no one seemed to be injured. But I’m not sure if either driver notified the police. The important thing to remember in a case like this is that even if the other driver leaves, you still have a duty to “forthwith” notify the police.

If a driver doesn’t perform his reporting duties, anyone in the vehicle who is at least 16 years old has to notify the police with any information they have. That notification must be done within 24 hours of the accident.

Here’s the bottom line: failing to report an accident is at least a class 1 misdemeanor. If someone is injured or the damage is more than $1,000, it’s a class 5 felony. Even if you’re a 16-year-old child in the car, you could still be guilty of a misdemeanor if the driver doesn’t stop and you don’t report within 24 hours.

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