As a lawful driver in New Jersey, you’re expected to have particular credentials on hand whenever you get behind the wheel of any motor vehicle. Part III of our series explains the documents you’ll be expected to produce if you’re involved in a car accident.
Whenever you operate a vehicle, you need to make sure you have your current license, a valid registration for the car you are driving, and an insurance card that shows liability coverage in force for that vehicle. This rule carries no exceptions.
Even if the car does not belong to you, those documents must be in your possession. New Jersey is a mandatory insurance state which requires every vehicle on the road to show coverage of a minimum amount of liability insurance under statute N.J.S.A. 39:6B-2
Quite simply; there’s something easy to remember: “Have the papers if you have the keys.”
When You’re Involved in a Car Accident and Don’t Have Documents
Should you become involved in an accident, regardless of injury or property damage, the specified credentials must be provided to both the other driver/property owner involved, as well as to the police officer who comes to investigate the incident.
You face significant traffic violations for a failure to have current, valid credentials. Likewise, if you can’t produce the documents, you risk some unnecessary expenses. And. the penalties for failing to have the proper paperwork, or dealing with expired documentation can multiply quickly:
• Driving with an expired license $ 54.00
• Driving an unregistered motor vehicle $ 54.00
• Failure to possess a driver’s license or registration $ 180.00
Failing to exhibit proof of insurance is not a fine that can just be paid. The court requires you to appear in court to answer for your actions. In addition, with an expired registration, the police can impound your vehicle. The fees for towing and storage until the registration is renewed will also become your responsibility.
Police are Called But Do Not Come – Now What?
Most often, in the case of an accident involving injuries that require an ambulance to be called, the police will respond in the normal course of duty. However, sometimes, the police are called, and for a variety of reasons they do not respond. In that event, you are still required to seek out the proper authorities and make a report. The report should be made to the local municipal police in the case of an accident in a town or residential area.
If the motor vehicle crash occurs on a highway such as the Garden State Parkway or New Jersey Turnpike, it would be reported to the County or State Police. There are penalties and fines for failing to report an accident, including the potential for being charged with a hit and run accident, which also gets you points against your license. If you already have points, you could end up with your driving privileges suspended.
Additionally, what many do not know is that under subsection (c) of N.J.S.A. 39:4-129(c), to producing valid credentials, you are required to provide assistance to any injured person, including getting them medical attention. If it is apparent that the victim needs help or if they make a specific request for medical care and you do not act responsibly, you could be fined for a violation of this portion of the law. Being unaware of this obligation does not relieve you of this requirement, nor will ignorance of it prevent you from being fined.
The important lesson here is that if you know that you have been in an accident, regardless of how minor, you are required to produce your credentials, make a report and obtain medical care for anyone who is injured. Failure to have your papers in order or to act responsibly can result in expensive fines and penalties. It is important to retain the services of an attorney experienced in New Jersey traffic law to help you obtain the best outcome if you find that you are being are charged with failing to meet these requirements.