Petaluma, CA asked in Car Accidents, Criminal Law, Federal Crimes and Libel & Slander for California

Q: Scared to pull over after a minor car accident because of possible violent reaction from the other person involved.

Let's say I got in a minor car accident and the other driver is acting angry and possibly violent. Could you keep driving (essentially making it a hit and run) because you felt unsafe to pull over and get out of the car? Is there a legal way to do this? Like calling the cops to explain the situation, and then continuing to drive?

I haven't been in any accidents as I am relatively new to driving, but I am worried about encountering someone's road rage in the future.

This is similar to dialing 911 and waiting to pull over in public if a cop is flashing their lights at you on a desolate road and you don't feel comfortable getting out without an audience.

2 Lawyer Answers
Maurice Mandel II
Maurice Mandel II
Answered
  • Newport Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: "Assumptions are the mother of all Foul ups." If you are assuming that the other driver would react violently and just take off, you are at fault for a hit and run. BUT, if you pull over with your windows up and the other driver makes any kind of overt act of violence, you would be justified in leaving while calling the police. For instance if the other driver exits the car with a golf club in hand, since a golf club is not needed to exchange information, this would be an overt act and you would be justified in getting the heck outta dere before he attacked you or your car, while you phoned 911 to report the incident with a complete physical description of the driver and the licence plate of his car.

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Douglas Hugh Ridley
Douglas Hugh Ridley
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Ventura, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You should always keep yourself safe at all costs. Our opinion is that it's better to try and sort out a criminal charge later than put yourself in danger now. That being said, this is tricky because many people have fled the scene of an accident out of fear, only to deal with a hit and run investigation and/or arrest down the road. You could pull over and remain in the car with the windows up and the engine running. You could notify law enforcement by dialing 911 immediately and having authorities dispatched to the scene. A good idea is to let the other party know that you are talking to the police when they approach that car, that may defuse them. You could exchange information by talking and showing ID through the glass or a very slightly cracked window. Of course if the encounter turns physically threatening and you are in fear of eminent danger, then you would still be in a position to drive away and head towards the nearest station to make a report. Of course this is all conversational and not legal advice, nor should it be construed to apply to your particular situation. We're happy to discuss any situation that you may have on a free consultation.

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