In the state of Texas, the operator of a vehicle involved in a traffic accident that results in, or is reasonably likely to result in, injury or death must stop and remain at the scene of the accident. The driver is required to provide any person injured in the accident with reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements for transporting the person to a doctor or hospital for medical treatment.
The rule applies if it is clear that treatment is necessary or the injured person requests transportation. The requirement to “stop and render aid” does not mean the driver has to medically treat the injured person themselves.
Obligations Outlined in Texas Law
The requirements for drivers are outlined in Texas Transportation Code Section 550.021, which provides that the driver must:
- Immediately stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
- Immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident.
- Immediately determine whether a person is injured in the accident and if that person requires aid.
- Remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given information and rendered aid.
Actions Required to Render Aid
According to Texas Transportation Code Section 550.023, the duty to give information and render aid involves these actions:
- Give the driver’s name and address, registration number of the vehicle they were driving and the name of their liability insurer to any person injured or to the driver, occupant or person attending a vehicle involved in the collision.
- If requested and available, show the driver's license of the person who was driving the vehicle to a person described above.
- Provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the car accident. This includes transporting, or making arrangements for transporting, them to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if the injured person requests transportation.
The driver of a vehicle that caused the accident is required to stop their vehicle without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
Felony Charges for Failure to Comply
The charge for leaving the scene of an accident in Texas depends on what events result due to the accident. A person who does not stop or comply with the requirements of Texas Transportation Code Section 550.021 commits a criminal offense. If their actions result in the death of a person, the offense will be charged as a felony of the second degree.
The penalty for a second degree felony is incarceration between two years and 20 years and a fine up to $10,000. If their actions result in serious bodily injury, the offense will be charged as a felony of the third degree. The penalty for a third degree felony is between two years and 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.
If the accident results in a personal injury, but not a serious bodily injury, the offense will be punishable by incarceration in prison for not more than five years or in the county jail for not more than one year and a fine up to $5,000.
Driver's License Suspension Provision
A person convicted of failure to stop and render aid will suffer a one-year driver’s license suspension for a first offense. For a second or subsequent offense, they will suffer an 18-month suspension. The person must pay a $100 fee to get their driver’s license reinstated.
They have the option of getting an occupational license to drive to necessary places such as work or school. They do not have the option of requesting an administrative hearing to contest the suspension.
If the person has also committed another criminal offense, such as a DWI, they may suffer a longer period of suspension due to the mandatory requirement for that offense.
Good Samaritan Law in Texas
The Texas Good Samaritan Law is found in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 74.151. The law applies to civil cases, in which one party sues another for a wrong such as a personal injury. It states that a person who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency, unless the act is willfully or wantonly negligent.
Where the Good Samaritan Law Does Not Apply
The law does not apply to a person whose negligent act or omission produced the emergency for which they are administering care. This means that a driver who caused an accident by acting negligently could be held liable for damages for attempting to save a victim injured in the accident.
Another party, such as a passerby, could not be held liable for attempting to save that victim. The term “willfully or wantonly negligent” means the person willfully failed or was grossly negligent in failing to act in a way with prudence or reasonable care under the circumstances.
For example, a driver caused a collision that resulted in a pedestrian getting injured, and a passerby attempted to move the injured pedestrian out of the roadway. The passerby’s attempt resulted in the pedestrian being much closer to cars speeding by in the roadway. As a result, a second driver hit the pedestrian. This would be likely to constitute wanton negligence on the part of the passerby.
Does Not Apply to Care Administered for Payment
The Texas Good Samaritan Law does not apply to care administered for, or in expectation of, payment for the assistance. This means a person who performs an act during an emergency in exchange for payment can be held liable for civil damages, even if their act does not involve wilful or wanton negligence.
For example, if the passerby stated, “I will move you in exchange for $20,” and the pedestrian said, “OK.” If the passerby hurt the pedestrian further while moving them, the pedestrian could successfully sue the passerby because they had performed the act for remuneration.
Being legally entitled to receive remuneration for emergency care rendered will not determine whether or not the care was administered for, or in anticipation of, remuneration.
Accidents Involving Only Vehicle Damage
Texas Transportation Code Section 550.022 concerns accidents involving only damage to a vehicle, or incidents such as a hit and run. When the accident does not involve an injury, the driver is required to:
- Immediately stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
- Immediately return to the scene of the accident if their vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident.
- Remain at the scene of the motor vehicle accident until the driver has given information and rendered aid in accordance with Texas Transportation Code Section 550.023.
Penalties for a Hit and Run Accident
A person commits an offense if they do not stop and/or comply with these requirements for accidents involving only damage to vehicles. An offense is a Class C misdemeanor if the damage to all vehicles is less than $200.
The penalty for a Class C misdemeanor is a fine up to $500. The offense is a Class B misdemeanor if the damage to all vehicles is $200 or more. The penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is incarceration up to 180 days and a fine up to $2,000.
Moving Vehicles After an Accident
If the accident occurs on a main lane, ramp, shoulder, median or adjacent area of a freeway in a metropolitan area, and each vehicle involved can be normally and safely driven, the drivers must move their vehicles as soon as possible to a designated accident investigation site, if available.
If this is not available, the drivers should move their vehicles to a location on a frontage road that runs parallel to a main road or highway and provides access to houses and businesses. The drivers can also move their vehicles to the nearest suitable cross street or other suitable location to comply with Section 550.023 and minimize interference with freeway traffic.
Penalty for Failing to Move a Vehicle
A person commits an offense simply by failing to move their vehicle as required after an accident. This offense is a Class C misdemeanor. A vehicle can be normally and safely driven only if it does not require towing and can be operated under its own power in its usual manner.
This means it can be driven without additional damage or hazard to the vehicle, other traffic or the roadway.
Actions That Incur a Charge
Level of Offense
Failure to stop and render aid that results in a death.
Second degree felony
Between 2 and 20 years' incarceration and fine up to $10,000.
Failure to stop and render aid that results in a serious bodily injury.
Third degree felony
Between 2 and 10 years' incarceration and fine up to $10,000 .
Failure to stop and render aid that results in a personal injury that is not a serious bodily injury.
Unclassified criminal offense, not specified as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Incarceration in prison for not more than 5 years or incarceration in the county jail for not more than 1 year, and fine up to $5,000.
Failure to stop, return to the scene of an accident and exchange information after an accident involving only damage to vehicles with damage to all vehicles of $200 or more.
Class B misdemeanor
Incarceration up to 180 days and a fine up to $2,000.
Failure to stop, return to the scene of an accident and exchange information after an accident
involving only damage to vehicles
with damage to all vehicles under $200.
Class C misdemeanor
Fine up to $500
Failure to move vehicle to a suitable location after an accident involving only damage to vehicles.
Class C misdemeanor
Fine up to $500
Make an Immediate Report to Law Enforcement
The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in injury, death or damage to a vehicle to the extent that it cannot be normally and safely driven must make a report immediately after the accident by the quickest means of communication to:
- Local police department if the accident occurred in a municipality.
- Local police department or sheriff's office if the accident occurred not more than 100 feet outside the limits of a municipality.
- Sheriff's office or nearest office of the police department if accident is not required to be reported to either police or sheriff.
Consequences of a Felony Conviction
A person convicted of a felony in Texas loses fundamental rights, including the right to:
- Vote until they complete their sentence, parole or probation.
- Possess a firearm.
- Serve on a jury.
- Hold public office.
Generally, a person with a felony conviction cannot seek an expunction (expungement) of their criminal record. A felony conviction also makes it difficult for a person to get approved for housing or hired for a job.
A person who successfully completes deferred adjudication community supervision or supervised probation under a pretrial diversion program can petition the court that heard their case for an order of nondisclosure. This order prevents criminal justice agencies from disclosing the person’s criminal record to members of the public.
DWIs and Failing to Stop
If the driver who failed to stop and render aid was intoxicated, they can be charged with the additional count of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Failure to stop and render aid, and DWI are separate offenses.
If the driver is sentenced to terms of incarceration for a DWI and failure to stop and render aid, the terms can run concurrently, meaning the same time counts for both offenses. The terms can also run consecutively, meaning that one term begins after the other ends.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist a person accused of failing to stop and render aid.
It will help if the attorney also has experience in defending drivers in insurance cases because the attorney may know how to bargain for a better plea offer from the prosecutor. Getting a felony reduced to a misdemeanor can help the driver avoid an increased insurance rate.
- Texas Transportation Code: Title 7 Vehicles and Traffic, Chapter 550 Accidents and Accident Reports
- Texas Penal Code: Title 3 Punishments, Chapter 12 Punishments
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Driver License Enforcement Actions
- Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code: Title 4 Liability in Tort, Chapter 74 Medical Liability
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.