One of the basic rules of the road is that if you are involved in an accident, you need to stop and exchange information with the other drivers involved. This is not just a matter of common courtesy. As a licensed driver, you have certain obligations under New York law when it comes to dealing with an auto accident–even a relatively minor one. Failure to comply with these laws can lead to significant penalties.
Of course, if you are injured in an accident, it is especially critical that the other drivers remain at the scene and identify themselves. In the event your injuries are serious you may need to pursue a personal injury claim against the other driver or their insurance company. And it can make it a lot more difficult to pursue such compensation if the other driver simply flees the scene.
Why You Need to Stop and Remain at the Scene of a Car Accident in New York
So what exactly are the rules when it comes to a car accident in New York? Essentially, if you are involved in any collision between your vehicle and another person or an object, you must do the following:
- You must stop to see if there are any injured persons or property damage. This includes damage to stationary objects such as fences or signposts.
- If there was another driver involved in the collision, you need to exchange your contact and proof of insurance with them. You do not have to discuss the accident itself or make any statement regarding potential fault for what happened.
- If there is anyone who has been injured or killed, or there appears to be more than $1,000 in property damage, you need to call 911 or your local law enforcement agency.
- If you, or someone else at the scene, has called for law enforcement, you must wait at the scene for an officer to arrive and take down an official report.
- You must notify your insurance company following an accident. If someone was injured or killed, you also need to file a report with the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.
- If you are involved in a collision with an unattended (parked) vehicle, you must attempt to locate and notify the owner. If you are unable to do so, you must report the accident to local law enforcement.
The one thing a driver cannot do following an accident where there is personal or property damage is to simply flee the scene. In cases where there is only property damage, leaving the scene is treated as a traffic violation punishable by a fine. But if anyone was injured in a hit-and-run, it is considered a criminal offense under New York law. In some cases, a person can face up to 1 year in jail for leaving the scene of an accident before the police arrive and someone was injured.
5 Steps to Take Following a Hit-and-Run Accident in New York
If you are injured or sustain property damage in a hit-and-run accident, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Never Try to Chase Down the Other Driver. For many people, their first instinct is to try and go after their hit and run driver. Never do this. It is unsafe and can lead to further injury for yourself and your passengers. It is always best to remain at the accident scene and contact local law enforcement.
- Take Notes and Photos. One thing you should try and do is take a picture of the other driver’s license plate. It is also a good idea to make a written description of the other vehicle. This can assist the police in identifying the driver. You should also take photos of your own vehicle and the accident scene with your smartphone.
- Identify Witnesses. If there were any third-party witnesses who might have seen what happened, take down their name and contact information. If the accident occurred near a local business, ask the people inside if they saw anything or have security camera footage that might be useful.
- Call Your Insurance Company . Remember, New York is a no-fault state when it comes to car accidents. So regardless of whether the hit and run driver is ever located, your insurance company is still responsible for providing certain compensation for your injuries and damages. But you need to promptly notify your insurer of the accident in order to preserve any rights you have under your policy.
- Call a New York Personal Injury Attorney. No-fault insurance coverage is often insufficient to cover more serious injuries. It is therefore in your interest to work with a qualified New York personal injury lawyer who can assist you in exploring additional avenues for seeking compensation, including pursuing a potential lawsuit against the hit-and-run driver.
Speak with a New York Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Proving liability against a hit-and-run driver can be tricky, especially if they deny being present at the accident scene. This is why it is important to gather as much evidence and relevant information as possible before pursuing a personal injury claim. Even if the defendant denies they were the negligent driver, circumstantial evidence can still be enough to send a case to trial.
Consider this recent decision from a New York State Supreme Court judge. In Fernandez v. Morales, the plaintiff was rear-ended by another vehicle. The plaintiff got out of his car and asked the driver of the rear vehicle to stop and exchange information. Instead, the other driver left the scene. Fortunately, the plaintiff was able to take down the license plate number and filed an accident report with the DMV. Based on this information, the plaintiff identified the owners of a vehicle matching that number and filed a personal injury lawsuit against them.
The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing there was no evidence their vehicle was even involved in an accident. The judge denied that motion. He noted that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence in the form of the license plate number and accident report to at least send the case to the jury.So as you can see, taking smart and swift action following a car accident can help preserve your legal rights, even in the case of a hit-and-run driver. If you have been injured in a car accident and need counsel or representation from a qualified New York personal injury attorney, contact Powers & Santola, LLP today.