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Operator Responsibilities in the Event of a Motor Vehicle Accident and Penalties for Failure to Act

Every few minutes auto accidents happen in states across the nation. Knowing your responsibilities in the event of an accident is key to prevent criminal charges from being brought against you for the failure to act.

Required Action

In the event of a motor vehicle accident in the state of New Jersey, an operator of a motor vehicle may be required to take certain actions to fulfill their obligations under the law. To evaluate whether an operator of a motor vehicle was required to take any action, New Jersey law requires a determination of whether the driver was knowingly involved in an accident. In New Jersey, a driver of a motor vehicle must be aware of an accident in order for a duty to arise. If a driver is knowingly involved in an accident that resulted in injury or death to a person or property damage, motor vehicle regulations indicate that the individual must take the following action:

  • The driver must immediately stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident. If a driver is unable to stop immediately, they are required to stop as close as possible to the accident and immediately return to the scene.
  • The driver must provide their name, address, driver’s license, and the vehicle’s registration to any person injured in the accident, a driver or any occupant of any other vehicle involved in the accident, and to a police officer or witness of the accident.
  • The driver must render reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident. Reasonable assistance will depend on the circumstances of each case, but may include taking the individual to a hospital for medical treatment.

If there is a determination by law enforcement that an individual was required to act and the individual failed to act, charges may be brought for failing to perform those obligations.

Penalties

The most common type of crime following a motor vehicle accident is a hit and run. The penalties imposed, pursuant to motor vehicle regulations, for knowingly leaving the scene of an accident will depend on the seriousness of the accident.

  • Property damage: Any person failing to perform the obligations set forth above may be required to pay between $200 and $400 in fines and serve up to 30 days jail time, for the first conviction. After the first conviction, the individual may be required to pay between $400 and $600 in fines and serve up to 90 days of jail time.
  • Injury or death: In the event that injury or death follows the accident, any person failing to perform the obligations set forth above may be required to pay $5,000 in fines and be required to serve up to 180 days jail time. In addition, there is a license suspension component where injury or death occurs. For the first offense, the individual may not be entitled to obtain a license for a period of one year. In the event of a second offense, the individual driver’s license will be permanently revoked.

When an individual leaves the scene of an accident, charges may also be brought pursuant to the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. An individual who knowingly leaves the scene of a motor vehicle accident which resulted in death may be charged with a second degree crime and may serve up to 10 years in jail. If serious bodily injury resulted an individual may be charged with a crime of the third degree and serve up to 5 years in jail.

If you or someone you know has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in New Jersey, don’t hesitate to contact Phillip J. Murphy, Attorney at Law. The potential consequences are serious and an experienced attorney is needed to advise you on the law. Attorney Murphy serves clients in Bergen County, New Jersey.

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