If you are in a car accident and someone is hurt, you have certain obligations under the law. However, you may be like many people who don’t realize you still need to take action if the crash didn’t involve personal injury or death.
Just about every automobile accident is still an incident which requires reporting under New Jersey law. Failure to do so can result in significant penalties, including fines, a potential jail sentence and license suspension. Otherwise, in the eyes of the court, your failure to make a report may be viewed as involvement in a “hit and run” accident.
The New Jersey law which explains what should be done in the event of a car accident is found at NJSA 39:4-129. Your legal obligations as a driver are explained in subsection “b” of the statutory language. Part II in our series considers what you should do if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash without injuries but with damage to the vehicles or other property.
What is considered property damage? While damage to your car is obvious, it could also include someone’s house, tree, fence or anything else that could be hit by the car. It can also involve items inside of your car, like your eyeglasses, cell phone, laptop, infant car seat or something else you were carrying with you.
Meanwhile, there’s something else to keep in mind. Even with limited property damage, a person can sustain serious personal injuries. Take for example this case where the property damage amounted to just $350. The victim’s injuries were severe enough that Attorney Matrafaljo won a $350,000 verdict in court.
When There is Property Damage resulting from a Car Accident
Under the law, you are required to remain at the scene and do what you can to prevent the vehicles from blocking traffic. Your credentials must be turned over to the other driver and police reporting to the scene. Leaving the scene is a traffic violation punishable by a fine and possible imprisonment. In addition, your license will be suspended for six months for a first offense and longer in cases of multiple offenses.
If you decide to leave because you think the damages are too minor to report, you could still face these penalties. Ignorance of this law does not make you immune from penalty for its violation. Clearly, a minor accident can present a serious problem if you do not act appropriately. It can have dramatic repercussions on your finances, your family and your livelihood.
While many consider a “fender bender” as minor, failure to act appropriately can be problematic. People often exchange information and leave the scene with the intent of reporting the accident under a claim for property damage. Additionally, without a police report it can become a “he said – she said” scenario, leaving you open to liability even if you didn’t cause the accident.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Property Damage
A violation of this section of the law comes with considerable penalties. A first offense conviction will result in a six month suspension of your license. If you’re convicted more than once, the penalty is increased to one year. Other penalties include:
• Fine of $200 for a first offense; between $400 and $600 for subsequent offenses
• Imprisonment of 30 days for a first offense; up to 90 for subsequent offenses
• Combination of both penalties
The bottom line is that if you’re aware that you have been in an accident, you are required to remain at the scene and make a report. As you can see, the penalties for leaving the scene can be significant. “Hit and run” accidents are viewed as irresponsible vehicle operation by the courts, and it is critical to retain the services of an attorney experienced in New Jersey traffic law to help you obtain the best outcome if you are charged with violation of this law.
At the Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafajlo, we understand that people make mistakes. When we represent clients, we strive for the best outcome based on the circumstances. Contact our office to discuss the circumstances of the charges brought against you.