If you have been involved in a car accident, nobody has been injured, or the damage is minimal, you may be tempted to exchange contact information and head home. However, leaving the scene of an accident is not always the right decision. Let's look at the facts about leaving the scene of an accident and when your car accident injury lawyer in Knoxville might advise against it.

Leaving The Scene vs. Hit-and-Run

One of the most important distinctions to establish is the difference between leaving the scene of an accident and a hit-and-run, as the two are very different situations. In a hit-and-run, the perpetrator flees the accident scene without the intention of notifying law enforcement, exchanging insurance information, or checking on the other driver. This behavior automatically makes the accident, which otherwise has been a misdemeanor, a felony.

Leaving the scene of an accident is different because, in this scenario, both parties have taken care of the necessary obligations and made a mutual agreement to leave the scene. This may include exchanging contact information and insurance details, ensuring nobody has been injured, and documenting any property damage, as long as it is minimal. Some of the most common reasons why people might choose to leave the scene rather than wait on the authorities include:

  • The accident is blocking traffic, but the damage is minimal, and the vehicles can be safely moved,
  • Law enforcement is busy, and it will take a long time to respond since it is a low priority,
  • Nobody is injured, and it's more of a nuisance accident, such as a low-impact fender bender.

These may seem valid reasons to leave the scene, but your car accident injury lawyer in Knoxville may disagree.

Why Shouldn't I Leave the Scene of an Accident?

Even when it seems like nobody has been injured, a car accident injury lawyer in Knoxville usually advises staying put and waiting for law enforcement to arrive. There are several reasons why this is the best idea.

  • The Other Driver May Not Be Honest - Even if you have talked to the driver and seen for yourself that they do not appear to be injured and there is minimal damage to their vehicle, they could say something quite different after you have driven away. This can include claiming to have more significant injuries that were not immediately apparent at the scene and that there was more substantial damage present. This turns any lawsuit into a he-said-she-said that a car accident injury lawyer in Knoxville will have a challenging time untangling without an official police report.
  • It May Be Against State Law - Every state has slightly different laws regarding leaving the scene of an accident, so doing so may be illegal even if there are no injuries. In Tennessee, you are required to stop at the scene of the accident and wait for police to arrive and give further instructions. Failing to do so is considered a Class C misdemeanor and carries a financial penalty and potential license suspension, depending on the value of the damage. You can move the vehicles a short distance in order to not impede traffic if it is safe for you to do so. However, as of September 2022, the Knoxville Police Department is no longer responding to some non-injury auto accidents. Instead, drivers are advised to move their vehicles to a safe location, exchange information, and take photographs. The KPD will still respond if the vehicle is disabled and blocking the road, if a driver is suspected to be intoxicated, or where there is a disorderly or uncooperative party. It is best to make the call and get advice directly on whether or not you need to wait for the police to attend.
  • You May Need The Police Report - You can still file an insurance claim without a police report, but it is much better to have one in case of any dispute. Your car accident injury lawyer in Knoxville can use the information in your police report to support your claim for damages, including details about the speed at which vehicles were traveling, the direction of the impact, and other information about the accident. Police can also access CCTV footage from the surrounding area that may help your case.
  • The Other Driver May Have MVA Issues - There is always a risk that the other driver involved in the accident could have MVA issues such as a lapse in their insurance, invalid vehicle registration, or a suspended driver's license. It is helpful for this to be documented by law enforcement as while they may not impact you directly, they may be useful in strengthening your claim for damages. If they are uninsured, your car accident injury lawyer in Knoxville can help you file a claim under uninsured motorist policies, so knowing upfront that this is necessary can help save time.
  • Injuries Are Not Always Obvious - While it may not seem like anyone has an injury, it is always better to get medical attention following a car accident, just in case. Some injuries are not immediately apparent and could manifest in the following days or weeks. Having a police report detailing the time, date, and circumstances of the accident will be helpful to both your doctor and your car accident injury lawyer in Knoxville.


Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at www.bvblaw.com or call 865-637-3531.

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