Accident scene: Unauthorised removal can be expensive
Drivers who leave the scene of an accident without informing the police and their insurance company are liable to prosecution sooner than many realise. This can not only be expensive, but also cost insurance cover - and result in the withdrawal of the driving licence and possibly a custodial sentence.
That is why you should not only know the legal regulations for an accident, but also comply with them as much as possible.
An accident is a stressful situation for many drivers. They are often unsure how to react appropriately and correctly. Accordingly, there are even some curious opinions about the correct behaviour at the scene of an accident. According to the Goslar Institute, there seems to be a widespread belief that it is sufficient to leave a note with personal contact details or a business card under the windscreen wiper at the scene of the accident. But the police, the courts and even the car insurers are usually not satisfied with this. So what to do if you have caused an accident or damage?
Some motorists think that there are different guidelines for behaviour at the scene of an accident depending on the type of damage. For example, no one should seriously think that in the case of a self-inflicted incident involving personal injury or major property damage, one can simply disappear from the scene of the accident without at least informing the police and waiting for them to arrive. Those who nevertheless behave in this way need not be surprised if they are accused of malicious intent. But even in the case of minor damage, such as a so-called parking bump, the law requires you to remain at the scene of the accident and to notify the law enforcement officers and the insurance company. As already mentioned, even in the case of a minor scratch in the paintwork of another vehicle, the person who caused the accident must not simply make off, even if they leave a written admission of guilt and their personal details on the damaged car. Otherwise, motorists quickly become unintentionally liable to prosecution.
For anyone who leaves the scene of an accident without first speaking to the injured party or the police is in breach of Section 142 of the Criminal Code (StGB) and thus commits a criminal offence. To this end, the relevant section clearly states that "a person involved in an accident who, after an accident in road traffic, departs from the scene of the accident before, firstly, he has made it possible for the benefit of the other parties involved in the accident and the injured parties to ascertain his person, his vehicle and the nature of his involvement by his presence and by stating that he is involved in the accident or, secondly, he has waited a reasonable time according to the circumstances without anyone being prepared to make the ascertainments" is punishable by a custodial sentence not exceeding three years or by a monetary penalty. According to subsection (1) of section 142, a person involved in an accident who has left the scene of the accident after the waiting period has expired and does not enable the findings to be made immediately afterwards is also punished.
It follows from this: If the owner of a damaged vehicle is not on the scene at the time of the collision, it is a case of waiting! The same applies to parking damage. Anyone who fails to do so commits a hit-and-run offence. At least 30 minutes is considered a reasonable waiting time. You should definitely stay at the scene of an accident for this long if you have caused damage. If the injured party continues to wait afterwards, the police should be informed about the incident. Simply leaving behind a business card or a piece of paper with personal data does not seem sufficient because these papers can be blown away by the wind or removed by third parties. So in case of doubt, you can't talk your way out of it ...
In addition, drivers who leave the scene of an accident without permission risk losing their comprehensive insurance cover. According to a ruling by the Koblenz Higher Regional Court (OLG), comprehensive insurance can refuse to pay if a driver has left the scene of an accident and has not reported the incident to his insurer as soon as possible. In the case to be decided, a driver had collided with a crash barrier without any external influence and had driven away from the scene of the accident. Later, at a rest area, he looked at the damage to his vehicle and then went home from there. The driver did not report the damage, including repair costs of around 22,200 euros, to his insurance company until four days later.
According to the judges, the driver thus violated the obligation to wait, which results from the General Conditions for Motor Insurance. According to these, an insured person may only leave the scene of an accident "when all the findings necessary to clarify the circumstances of the accident have been made".