Rhode Island Hit-and-Run

Leaving the scene of an accident in Rhode Island will come with harsh fines and possible jail time.
Written by Max Werner
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Hit-and-runs are charged as misdemeanors or felonies in Rhode Island. Adjacent penalties include license suspension starting at six months, fines up to $10,000, and jail time between six months and 20 years. 
Victims of a hit-and-run may be covered under collision or uninsured motorist insurance. For the best results, drivers should act fast—stopping their vehicle, gathering as much information as possible about the culprit, and reporting the crime to the police.
Every state has laws against drivers who leave this scene of an accident without exchanging personal and insurance information. 
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What is a hit-and-run? 

A hit-and-run applies to any accident where a driver knowingly collides with a person, vehicle, or property and does not stop afterward. The law demands that vehicles stop and drivers exchange insurance information. Leaving the scene can make it more difficult for a victim to file a claim.
You’ll be charged with a hit-and-run regardless of your fault in the accident. To avoid criminal penalties, both parties must remain at the scene of an accident and, in the case of unattended property, attempt to identify the owner.
MORE: Hit and run insurance claims: Everything you need to know

What happens if you commit a hit-and-run in Rhode Island?

If you’ve been in an accident, stay calm. Move your vehicle to a nearby, safe location and begin a dialogue with the other driver—promptly exchanging information and reporting the crime. The legal and financial penalties for leaving the scene of an accident won’t be gentle.

Is a hit-and-run a felony in Rhode Island? 

Rhode Island will charge a hit-and-run as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the collision's severity. It will be charged as a misdemeanor if the accident resulted in property damage or involved an unattended vehicle. It will be charged as a felony in the case of death or serious injury.
Felony charges can be given to drivers who leave the scene of an accident that results in minor injury. Depending on the circumstance, it’s possible to get this charge reduced to a misdemeanor—but drivers should still stop to assess the well-being of others.

What is the punishment for a hit-and-run in Rhode Island? 

In Rhode Island, hit-and-run punishments will vary based on the results of an accident, such as who was injured and how severe was the damage?
Damaging property or an unattended vehicle can result in a $1000 fine, six months in county jail, and license suspensions for up to half a year. On the other hand, serious injury or death comes with fines as hefty as $10,000 and prison sentences up to 15 years.
The following table has a comprehensive breakdown of hit-and-run punishments in Rhode Island:
Result of accident
Possible punishment
Property damage only
Up to 6 months in county jail
Fine up to $1,000
Up to 6 months license suspension
Minor injuries
Up to 5 years in county jail or state prison
Fine up to $5,000
Up to 5-year license suspension
Serious injury (loss or permanent impairment of a body part or limb)
1 to 10 years in state prison (in conjunction with fine)
Fine up to $5,000
Up to 2-year license suspension
2 to 15 years in state prison (in conjunction with fine)
Fine from $5,000 to $10,000
Up to 3-year license suspension
Rhode Island increases the punishment of a crime based on criminal history. For example, while the base fine for causing an injury is $5,000, subsequent offenses within a five-year period will raise this up to $10,000. The same effect applies to additional penalties like jail time and license suspension.

How to avoid a hit-and-run charge

Rhode Island
vehicle law 31-26-2
asks that drivers “immediately stop their vehicle at the scene of an accident or as close as possible” after a collision. If the driver fails to remain at the scene until the information is exchanged, they will be subject to a hit-and-run and the associated penalties. After stopping, a driver must do the following:
  • Locate and notify the property owner
  • Allow the owner to copy your license, registration, and current address
  • Report the accident to the police in a timely manner
If the property owner cannot be identified, Rhode Island asks that the driver leave a visible note. The note should include the following information:
  • License, registration, and current address
  • An explanation of the events leading up to the crash
  • Valid contact information
Failing to do any of the steps above, including ignoring attempts for contact, will make a driver liable for a hit-and-run charge. The prosecution must prove you knew about the accident and willingly left the scene to convict you of a hit-and-run.
MORE: Rhode Island Electric Vehicle Incentives

What should I do if I experience a hit-and-run in Rhode Island? 

The most important tip for victims of a hit-and-run in Rhode Island is: Don’t panic. By gathering information and quickly reporting the crime, you’ll be in a great position for filing an insurance claim.

At the scene

Initiating a chase can make you liable for the accident. You should not follow the at-fault driver. Instead, assess the injuries of those in the vehicle and call 911.
At the scene, record as much of the following as you can: 
  • What happened leading up to the crash
  • The make, model, color, and body style of the other vehicle
  • License plate number(s) for any vehicles involved
  • The physical appearance of the other driver
  • Where, directionally, the other vehicle drove towards 
  • Unique identifiers (dents, mods, bumper stickers, custom plates) of the other vehicle
After you’ve recorded the necessary information: Take photos and ask around. Pictures allow you to document the accident and provide proof to your insurance company. Witnesses can identify details you may have missed.

After you leave the scene

Check to see that the on-scene officer has filed a police report. Not only is this report valuable for finding the at-fault driver, but it can also help your insurance company gather evidence when assessing your claim.
The insurance claim itself should be filed within 24 hours of the accident. This time window is a requirement for most insurers—but the sooner you file, the better. 
The at-fault driver's liability insurance will cover the damages if they are identified. If the driver cannot be found or does not have insurance, your claim’s success will become more complicated. You could still be covered under one of the following plans:

What insurance covers a hit-and-run?

Insurance type
Will it cover a hit-and-run?
Collision coverage
A deductible may be required
Uninsured motorist coverage
Your insurer may not cover hit-and-runs
Medical payments (MedPay) coverage
Covers what health insurance will not, plus paying deductible
Personal injury protection (PIP)
Covers expenses related to an accident (lost wages)

How to find affordable insurance for collisions and more 

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Victims of a hit-and-run should not expect any hike in their insurance costs. Many insurers will even forgo a deductible in the case of a specific accident. 
On the other hand, causing a hit-and-run will drastically increase your monthly premiums—and affect your eligibility for affordable coverage.
Hit-and-run charges come with serious legal implications—steep fines, jail time, and suspensions. It’s in your best interest to seek legal counsel if you've been accused of a hit-and-run.
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