Leaving the Scene of an Accident

New Jersey Traffic Violation Attorney

Edison traffic ticket lawyer Leon Matchin is dedicated to defending drivers charged with various motor vehicle violations, including those related to leaving an accident scene. New Jersey drivers should know that even small omissions can expose them to severe criminal penalties. For over 10 years, Mr. Matchin has helped motorists downgrade the failure to report and even get the charges against them dismissed.

Leaving the Accident Scene

New Jersey law treats hit-and-run accidents seriously, even if no injury is involved. Motorists are required to immediately stop their vehicles at the scene of an accident, or as close to the scene as possible, and exchange information with other drivers or render assistance as necessary under New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A.) 39:2-129. This may require:

  • Exchanging insurance information with other drivers
    • Includes “minor” property damage, even in parking lots
  • Rendering assistance for any bodily injury, however slight
    • Secure transfer or, if none available, duty to transport to hospital
  • Waiting for emergency services such as police or ambulance
    • Report to nearest police station if not possible to stop at accident site
  • Does not require knowledge of legal obligation to stop or help at accident scene

While fear of prosecution may tempt drivers to flee, penalties for violating the statute are severe. Further, “serious” property damage or bodily injury is not required. N.J.S.A. 39:4-129(d) covers accidents causing damage to one’s own vehicle, public signs, and municipal property. Even small dents requiring repairs over $250 create a presumption of knowledge of the offense.

Penalties for Property Damage

Leaving the scene of an accident causing any type of property damage is a 2-point violation under N.J.S.A. 39:4-129(b). These points go on the driver’s permanent record and may result in increased insurance fees. Violation of this section exposes motorists to additional fines, possible imprisonment, and license suspension for 6 months. A second offense may result in up to 90 days in jail and 1-year suspension of driving privileges. Those who fail to report to police should contact their insurance company immediately to deal with potential liability claims.

Leaving Accident Causing Bodily Injury

N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1 covers accidents involving personal injury. Violation of this section can expose motorists to indictment for a fourth-degree crime. “Injury” is broadly defined to mean any “unpleasant sensation” or wide range of harm. In order to convict a motorist under this section, prosecutors must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Operation of motor vehicle
  • Knowing involvement in accident
  • Knowingly, unlawfully leaving scene
  • Resulting in serious bodily injury or death

Drivers unlawfully leave the scene of an accident if there is a “high probability” of awareness of their actions, even if they do not know of their duty to stop or that the accident resulted in bodily injury. Serious bodily injury means any harm creating a “substantial risk” of death or causing permanent disfigurement, loss of a body part, or organ impairment. This is an 8-point violation.

Defense for Leaving an Accident Scene

An experienced traffic attorney may invoke the 1-year statute of limitations in defending a driver charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Depending on the driver’s efforts to contact insurers or police after the crash, the charge may be downgraded to a non-point violation for failure to report under N.J.S.A. 39:4-130; “careless driving” under section 39:4-97; or dismissed.

If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident, Woodbridge traffic ticket lawyer Leon Matchin can help. He has successfully defended numerous motorists in the Municipal and Superior Courts in Middlesex, Monmouth, and Mercer Counties, though his services are not limited to these areas. Call (732) 662-7658 today for a free consultation or contact us online.