It may be quite some time since your qualified for your New Jersey driver’s license. Although some information may still be fresh in your head, a refresher might keep you out of trouble. Your actions in case of a car accident absolutely matter.
The New Jersey law involving your actions in the case of an accident is found at NJSA 39:4-129. Part I in our series considers what you should do if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash and someone is injured or dies. Your legal obligations are spelled in the subsection marked “a” of the statutory language.
Perhaps this section appears the easiest to understand. At the very least, it seems more of a commonsense reaction. Surely, an accident you’re involved in results in someone’s death, you know to stay at the scene. No doubt you might also surmise that it doesn’t matter if you caused the accident or not.
Then, there is the issue of personal injury. Do you only have to stay at the scene of the accident if someone else was hurt? What if you’re the only one who claims injury and you don’t feel like sticking around to wait for the police?
In some rare cases, it’s entirely possible to drive away from the scene of an accident without realizing you’ve caused harm to another person. Take, for example the driver who went home after she hit a pedestrian and didn’t even know it.
When Someone is Hurt or Dies in a Car Accident
First, you should be aware that leaving the scene of an accident where there is injury or death is a very serious offense. That said, the statute also places the responsibility to stop on drivers who are “knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death.”
Meanwhile, it’s important to note that it doesn’t matter if you caused the accident or someone else did. You are expected to stop at the scene or as close to it as possible. If you decide to leave because you didn’t think anyone was injured, you could still face charges.
The bottom line is that if you’re aware you’re in an accident, you shouldn’t leave the scene and later claim ignorance. Subsection “c” of the statute takes it even further. You also are required to supply the injury victim with your name and address and show our license and registration to them.
Additionally, your credentials must be turned over to the other driver and police reporting to the scene. There are further requirements if an individual is too badly injured to take the information from you. More specifically, you’ll need to make sure the appropriate law enforcement agency has your information.
Penalties for Leaving an Accident Scene with Injuries or Death
Violation of this section of the law comes with steep penalties. A first offense conviction will result in one-year forfeiture of your license. If you’re convicted more than once, you permanently lose your driving privileges in New Jersey. Other penalties include:
• Fine of not less than $2,500, but not more than $5,000
• Imprisonment of up to 180 days
• Combination of both penalties
As you can see, the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident are quite severe. Hit and run accidents are not viewed favorably by the courts, and it is critical to retain the services of an attorney experienced in New Jersey traffic law.