Accident or Crime? How You React Matters
(Photo credit: ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd.)
Even the most skilled drivers can be involved in a car accident. How you react in the aftermath can mean the difference between an accident and a crime.
Accidents range from fender-benders to multi-vehicle pile-ups. Some result in damages only, while others can be fatal. (According to a State Police report issued on October 2, there had been five fatalities resulting from motor vehicle accidents in Hunterdon County so far this year.) (1) Whatever your situation, there are steps to take following an accident.
The most important thing to remember is to never leave the scene of an accident. Under New Jersey law, a person who is aware he or she has been involved in an accident and knowingly leaves the scene “shall be guilty of a crime” if that accident results in serious injury or death to another person. In order to be found guilty of such a crime, it must be proven that you were the operator of a vehicle involved in the accident and that you knowingly left the scene. (2)
In New Jersey, there are certain steps that need to be taken if the accident results in injury or death, or in damages in excess of $500 to any vehicle or property involved in the accident:
• Assess injuries – If there are any injuries, immediately call for emergency medical attention.
• Report the accident — If there are no injuries and police are not notified, the accident must still be reported to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) within ten days. A letter explaining the circumstances of the accident and including as many details as possible will satisfy this requirement.
• Exchange information – Obtain the name, address, phone and driver’s license number of the other driver involved in the accident, a description of the car, and the license plate number and insurance information.
• Collect evidence – If there are witnesses to the accident, record their names and numbers. Make note of the time of day and the conditions of the road and weather at the time of the accident. Take pictures of the scene if possible; pictures may be used to support insurance claims and court cases if necessary. (3)
Motorists have the obligation under New Jersey law to immediately stop their vehicles at the scene of an accident or as close as possible to the scene for safety. (2) Failing to do so can make a bad situation worse.
If you need legal assistance because you were involved in an automobile accident in Hunterdon County or the surrounding area, contact the tenacious personal injury lawyers at Ragland Law Firm in Lebanon, N.J.