Some drivers may wonder what to do immediately following an accident. While most know they should exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved, they may not realize they have an obligation to report the incident to the police. Failure to report a car accident may cause serious problems with a future insurance claim or lawsuit so be sure to consult a car accident lawyer in New York City. It can also lead to criminal charges for a hit-and-run violation.
When to Report a Car Accident
New York law requires drivers to notify the police immediately if a car accident results in bodily injury, death, or property damage that appears to exceed $1,000. Additionally, New York law requires the driver who caused the accident to report it. If the driver cannot call the police immediately to report the accident, he or she must visit the local precinct or police station and report it in person as soon as possible.
In an accident resulting in property damage but no obvious injuries beyond minor cuts and scrapes, a driver may wonder how much the damage is worth and whether it qualifies for a call to the police. If there is any room for doubt, always report it. It is better to file a report for a very minor accident than to skip reporting a potentially major one and incurring criminal charges in addition to possible civil liability.
A driver involved in a motor vehicle accident in New York must file an accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days of the accident if it caused any serious injuries, deaths, or property damage exceeding $1,000.
Penalties for Failure to Report an Accident
There are many potential penalties for forgetting or neglecting to file a police report. If an accident only resulted in property damage, failure to make an immediate report can lead to up to 15 days in jail, a fine of up to $250, or both. If a driver fails to report an accident that caused bodily injury, the driver faces a Class A misdemeanor charge. Fines for this type of violation can range from $500 to $1,000 and the driver may also face up to one year in jail.
Failure to report an accident that results in a severe injury is a Class E misdemeanor, punishable by fines from $1,000 to $2,500, up to four years of jail time, or both. Failure to file an official accident report with the DMV is a misdemeanor that may lead to driver’s license or vehicle registration suspension or revocation.
If the driver responsible for reporting the accident is physically incapable of filing a report in the required time, any passenger who was present at the accident must file the report. If the driver did not own the car, the car’s owner must file the report within ten days of learning of the accident.
Insurance and Legal Issues
There is no state law requiring drivers to report accidents to their insurance carriers but a driver may need to do so to remain in compliance with his or her auto insurance contractual obligations. An insurance carrier may have specific criteria for reporting but it is generally a good idea to report an accident to make sure you do not void your own coverage.
Failing to report an accident may not only lead to criminal charges, fines, and possibly even jail time, but it can also lead to civil liability as well. If after a serious accident the at-fault driver fled the scene without reporting it, the victim’s injuries could worsen when he or she might have recovered with immediate medical care. Ultimately, it is in any driver’s best interest to report a car accident in New York if there is any reason to believe it qualifies for reporting under New York state law.