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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Can You Go to Jail for a Car Accident in Tennessee? - What Local Laws Say

Car accidents often have serious consequences, both in terms of property damage and personal injuries. Each state has established laws that require drivers to exercise caution on the road to avoid incidents that may put other people's lives at risk.

In Tennessee, a driver can face criminal charges and potential jail time if they're involved in a car accident and commit a criminal offense, which can result from how they react to a crash or caused the incident.

While each case is different and the outcome depends on specific circumstances, leaving the scene of an accident may result in a hit-and-run charge. Therefore, anyone who fails to stop after a crash in this state could be charged and face harsh penalties, such as driver's license suspension and jail time.

Here's more information on what the Tennessee law says about car accidents and potential penalties for at-fault drivers.

Criminal Offenses Related to Car Accidents in Tennessee

Criminal Offenses Related to Car Accidents in Tennessee

The severity of the offense will determine the potential penalties that at-fault drivers may face after the accident.

Reckless driving and driving under the influence (DUI) are two common criminal offenses and often result in jail time after a car accident, for example. However, they aren't the only ones.

Besides these common offenses, drivers can also face charges and penalties for vehicular assault or homicide if their actions behind the wheel seriously injure or kill another person.

In Tennessee, vehicular assault is a felony, which can result in up to 12 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Additionally, vehicular homicide is considered another serious criminal offense or felony in this state. Drivers facing this charge may be punished with 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

What About Hit-and-Run Cases?

As mentioned, leaving the scene of the accident in Tennessee could also result in jail time for at-fault drivers.

Essentially, failing to stop after a car accident is a hit-and-run offense. This term describes an accident where the driver intentionally leaves the scene without checking if the victim was okay or exchanging contact information with other parties involved.

Penalties and charges vary depending on the severity of the offense, ranging from a Class C misdemeanor if the accident resulted in minor property damage to a Class A misdemeanor if a person is injured.

Drivers who commit this offense could have their driver's license suspended and face up to eleven months in jail with a $2,500 fine.

If a person dies, the charge changes to manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Understanding Tennessee Laws About Car Accidents

Personal injury law establishes that all people have a duty to others. Drivers have a duty of care to other actors on the road.

While a pedestrian has the duty to look both ways before crossing the street, and all drivers must make sure they maintain a safe speed, avoid obstructing traffic, and signal their vehicles, a person who causes an accident has the duty to stop.

Tennessee says that drivers who cause an accident must do the following:

  • Stop as soon as possible

  • Stay on the scene

  • Sharing contact and insurance information with injured people or other drivers involved in the accident

  • Contact law enforcement officers

  • Wait until law enforcement arrives on the scene

In addition, when a person is injured in a car accident, the at-fault driver must provide reasonable assistance until first responders answer the call and arrive on the scene.

What Factors May Affect The Charges That At-Fault Drivers Could Face?

Several factors can affect the severity of the charges a person may face after causing a car accident in Tennessee. These include the following:

  1. The nature of the offense: Whether the accident involves reckless driving, DUI, vehicular assault, or vehicular homicide, the nature of the driver's action can have a significant impact on the severity of the charges.

  2. The extent of injuries or property damage: If the accident caused serious injuries or substantial property damage, charges and penalties may be more severe.

  3. Previous criminal history: Having a criminal history with previous offenses may also impact the severity of the charges.

  4. Aggravating factors: Aggravating factors, such as speeding or driving with a suspended license, can also result in more severe charges.

  5. Mitigating factors: Contrastingly, a lack of prior criminal history, cooperation with law enforcement, or evidence of remorse may reduce the severity of the charges.

In other words, the specific circumstances of the car accident always determine the severity of the charges.

What Should Victims Do After a Car Accident If They Believe At-Fault Drivers Committed an Offense?

Essentially, car accident victims in Tennessee should take a few steps to protect their rights and interests if they have been involved in a car accident where the at-fault driver could face criminal charges.

This includes contacting a personal injury attorney, documenting their injuries and damages, cooperating with law enforcement, attending court hearings, and pursuing compensation through negotiation or litigation.

Here's more information on what victims should do in these cases:

  1. Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

A personal injury attorney can help victims understand their legal options and work to pursue compensation on their behalf. They can also help them navigate the complex legal system and represent them in court if necessary.

  1. Document Their Injuries and Damages

Victims should document any injuries or damages they have suffered as a result of the accident.

This might include taking photographs of their injuries, keeping receipts for medical expenses, and documenting any lost wages or other financial damages.

  1. Cooperate with Law Enforcement Officers

If criminal charges have been filed against the other driver, victims or injured parties should cooperate with law enforcement. They may have to provide a statement or testify in court, for example.

  1. Attend Court Hearings

If called to testify in court, victims should attend all hearings as required by law. Failure to do so could result in additional legal complications.

  1. Pursue Compensation

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, victims may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages.

This remuneration may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. A personal injury attorney can help them pursue compensation through negotiation or litigation.

It's important to note that criminal charges and civil claims are separate legal matters. Even if the other driver is found guilty of a criminal offense, victims may still need to build a civil case to recover compensation for their injuries and damages.

A personal injury attorney can help injured people understand the legal process, protect their rights, and build a solid case to recover the compensation they deserve.

How Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help

How Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help

After a Tennessee hit-and-run accident, or other car incident involving a criminal offense, both parties must understand their legal rights and their role in the process. Therefore, they should seek help from an experienced lawyer.

At-fault drivers work with criminal defense attorneys to try to get charges dismissed or penalties reduced. In contrast, victims hire personal injury lawyers to build a strong case and hold at-fault parties accountable for their actions.

Overall, vehicle accident attorneys in Nashville can help car accident victims collect evidence, understand their rights, prepare the lawsuit, and represent them in court if they must present the case before a jury.

In addition, attorneys have extensive experience handling matters related to both parties' insurance policies.

Although Tennessee is an "at-fault" state, which means at-fault parties must pay medical bills and other damages caused by the crash, victims cannot file a claim with the other driver's insurance company if they left the scene.

However, injured parties may still be able to make a claim with their insurance company to cover different expenses, such as emergency care, follow-up appointments, physical therapy, and more. These costs are recoverable by insurers if victims get a settlement.

Lawyers can also guide victims through this process, offering comprehensive advice to help them make the best decisions for their cases. They can also provide insight on back injury car accident settlement Tennessee.

Final Thoughts

Car accidents can lead to criminal charges and potential jail time in Tennessee if a person is found to have committed a criminal offense related to the accident.

It's crucial for both drivers and victims to understand their legal options and work with an experienced attorney to protect their rights and interests.

Each case is different, especially if drivers commit criminal offenses. These unique circumstances determine the outcome, the severity of the charges, and the potential compensation for victims.

Therefore, all parties should work with seasoned attorneys to understand the process.

Call Our Law Firm and Get the Advice You Need For a Tennessee Car Accident Today!

Anyone involved in a car accident where a party is facing criminal charges can find a reputable and trustworthy lawyer at Schuerger Shunnarah Attorneys. They can also answer questions such as, "Who pays for medical bills in a car accident in Tennessee?"

Our law firm has extensive experience handling personal injury cases involving criminal offenses, such as hit-and-run accidents, and is willing to help victims fight for their rights.

Call us today and get a free case consultation. We go to war for our clients!


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