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Civil vs. Criminal Hit and Run: Understanding the Differences

Posted by Cedrick Forrest | Jun 15, 2023 | 0 Comments

Civil Hit and Run: Seeking Compensation for Damages

Hit-and-run incidents can have serious consequences, both legally and morally. When a driver leaves the scene of an accident without stopping to provide assistance or exchange information, it can result in civil and criminal consequences. In this article, we will explore the differences between civil and criminal hit-and-run cases, the legal implications of each, and the potential penalties involved. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for drivers to navigate the legal system and ensure justice is served.

What is Civil Hit and Run?

Civil hit-and-run refers to the legal aspect of a hit-and-run incident that primarily focuses on seeking compensation for damages caused by the responsible party. In civil cases, the victim, or the victim's insurance company, files a lawsuit against the driver who fled the scene. The purpose is to recover financial losses incurred due to property damage, medical expenses, and other related costs.

Key Elements of Civil Hit and Run Cases

To establish a civil hit-and-run case, certain key elements must be present:

  1. Duty of Care: The driver had a duty to exercise reasonable care while operating a motor vehicle.

  2. Breach of Duty: The driver breached their duty of care by causing an accident and leaving the scene without fulfilling their legal obligations.

  3. Causation: The driver's actions were the direct cause of the accident and resulting damages.

  4. Damages: The victim suffered actual damages, such as property damage, medical expenses, or emotional distress.

Legal Consequences in Civil Hit and Run Cases

In civil hit-and-run cases, the court focuses on compensating the victim rather than punishing the responsible party. The liable driver may be ordered to pay monetary damages to cover the victim's losses. These damages can include:

  • Property Damage: Repairs or replacement of the damaged property, such as vehicles or other structures.

  • Medical Expenses: Reimbursement for medical treatment, hospital bills, and ongoing healthcare costs.

  • Lost Wages: Compensation for lost income due to injuries sustained in the hit-and-run accident.

  • Pain and Suffering: Damages awarded for physical and emotional pain caused by the incident.

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Importance of Legal Representation in Civil Hit and Run Cases

Navigating civil hit-and-run cases can be complex, especially when proving negligence and assessing the full extent of damages. Hiring an experienced attorney specializing in personal injury law is crucial to ensure a fair settlement. They will gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and advocate on behalf of the victim to maximize the compensation they deserve.

Criminal Hit and Run: Facing Criminal Charges

What is Criminal Hit and Run?

Criminal hit and run involve the commission of a crime when a driver leaves the scene of an accident without fulfilling their legal obligations. Unlike civil cases focusing on compensation, criminal hit-and-run cases are pursued by law enforcement agencies to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.

Elements of Criminal Hit and Run Cases

To establish a criminal hit-and-run case, certain elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Duty to Stop: The driver had a legal duty to stop at the scene of the accident.

  2. Knowing the Accident Occurred: The driver was aware or should have been aware that they were involved in an accident.

  3. Intent to Flee: The driver intentionally left the scene without providing necessary information or assistance.

  4. Legal Obligations: The driver failed to fulfill their legal obligations, such as providing identification, contacting emergency services, or reporting the accident to the police.

Legal Consequences in Criminal Hit and Run Cases

Criminal hit-and-run cases are considered serious offenses with potential criminal penalties. The specific consequences vary depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the incident. Common penalties may include:

  • Fines: The court imposes monetary penalties for the offense committed.

  • Driver's License Suspension: Temporary or permanent revocation of the driver's license restricts their ability to operate a motor vehicle legally.

  • Probation: Court-ordered supervision requires individuals to adhere to specific conditions and restrictions.

  • Criminal Record: A hit-and-run conviction can result in a criminal record, potentially affecting future employment prospects and other aspects of life.

Differentiating Factors: Civil vs. Criminal Hit and Run Cases

The following factors help distinguish civil hit-and-run cases from criminal hit-and-run cases:

Civil Hit and Run

Criminal Hit and Run


Seeking compensation for damages

Holding the responsible party accountable

Legal Actions

The lawsuit filed by the victim

Criminal charges brought by the state

Burden of Proof

Preponderance of evidence

Beyond a reasonable doubt


Monetary damages

Fines, license suspension, probation, criminal record

Legal Representation

Personal injury attorney

Criminal defense attorney

FAQs about Civil and Criminal Hit and Run

Q: What should I do if I am involved in a hit-and-run accident?

A: If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure your safety and the safety of others at the scene.

  2. Gather as much information as possible, such as the vehicle's make, model, and license plate number.

  3. Contact the police immediately and provide them with all available information.

  4. Seek medical attention if necessary.

  5. Notify your insurance company about the incident and cooperate with their investigation.

Q: Can I file a civil lawsuit if the responsible driver is not identified?

A: You can still file a civil lawsuit even if the responsible driver is not identified. Your attorney can guide you through filing an uninsured motorist claim with your insurance company or exploring other legal options to seek compensation.

Q: How long do I have to file a civil hit-and-run lawsuit?

A: The statute of limitations for filing a civil hit-and-run lawsuit varies depending on the jurisdiction. It is crucial to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure you get all the filing deadlines.

Q: Is it possible to face both civil and criminal consequences for a hit-and-run incident?

A: It is possible to face both civil and criminal consequences for a hit-and-run incident. The civil case focuses on compensation for damages, while the criminal case aims to hold the responsible party accountable under the law.

Q: Can insurance companies deny coverage in hit and run cases?

A: Insurance policies may have specific provisions regarding hit-and-run incidents. In some cases, uninsured motorist coverage may apply to compensate for damages. Consulting with an attorney and reviewing your insurance policy can help determine the coverage available to you.

Q: What if the hit-and-run driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

A: If the hit-and-run driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the legal consequences could be even more severe. In addition to facing hit-and-run charges, the driver may also face DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charges, which carry their own penalties.


Understanding the differences between civil and criminal hit-and-run cases is essential for anyone involved in such an incident. While civil cases focus on seeking compensation for damages, criminal cases aim to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions. It is crucial to consult with legal professionals specializing in personal injury and criminal defense to effectively navigate the complex legal processes. By doing so, victims can pursue justice and receive the compensation they deserve, while responsible parties can learn from their actions and potentially avoid more severe consequences in the future.

About the Author

Cedrick Forrest

Your rights and needs are my top priorities. Bar Admissions Texas Education J.D. - University of Houston Law Center B.A. - University of Houston Major: Political Science and Government


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