Statistics, laws and what to do after a hit-and-run crash
Leaving the scene of an accident (also called a hit-and-run) is a serious offense in New York. No matter how minor a collision it is, you have a legal obligation to identify yourself and offer aid to anyone who needs help.
It doesn’t matter who’s at fault. You commit a hit-and-run if you leave the scene of an accident, even if you didn’t cause the collision.
An “accident” is any collision with a vehicle, person, or that causes property damage (to any stationary object like a house, guardrail, light post, fence, etc.).
NY legal requirements after an accident
Here’s what you must do if you have a collision with any object or person while driving:
- Stop to see if anyone is injured or if there is any damage.
- Share your contact and insurance information with the other driver. Also be sure to get their contact and insurance information.
- Call 911 or your local police dispatch if someone is injured, killed, or if there is damage totaling more than $1,500. Wait for an officer to arrive and file a report.
There are 2 statutes under New York Vehicle & Traffic Law that set forth requirements for a vehicle accident.
- VTL 600-1a: For accidents where there is only property damage and no injuries, this law requires that you must share your license and insurance information with the other driver(s). You don’t need to call the police if no one was injured and the cost appears to be less than $1,000 worth of damage.
- VTL 600-2a: For an accident that involves injuries, the driver must call the police and file a report (unless they’re physically unable to do so). They also must share insurance information and personal contact information with all parties involved, regardless of who is at fault.
If the accident only results in property damage and you can’t locate the other driver (for example, you back into another car in a parking lot), you can leave your contact and insurance information in a note attached to the other vehicle’s windshield. If you can’t locate the owner of the vehicle, you’re required to report the accident to the local police department.
How to file an accident report in New York
Trust us when we say you don’t want to be charged with a hit-and-run. It’s important to know the process for properly filing an accident report.
New York requires a report to be filed with the DMV within 10 days if there’s property damage amounting to more than $1,000. That includes not just damage to the other vehicle, but to your car as well.
- Property damage only: Provide your driver’s license, insurance, and registration information to the other driver.
- Parked vehicle or other property damage, or if a domestic animal is injured: If you cannot locate the owner, you must contact the police.
- Property damage is $1,000 or more: Each involved driver must file a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident to the DMV.
- If there’s an injury or fatality: You must notify the police immediately. Each involved driver and the police must file a report with the DMV.
What are the penalties for a hit-and-run in New York?
If you leave the scene of an injury accident in New York, you can be criminally charged and receive a sentence of up to 1 year in jail. If there are serious injuries or a fatality, it becomes a felony and you can be sentenced to up to 7 years in jail.
|New York hit-and-run penalties|
|Fines||Up to $250 for property damage only, and up to $5,000 if there are injuries.|
|Surcharge||Mandatory surcharge between $88 and $93.|
|Points||3 points on the driver’s license if there are no injuries or minor injuries.|
|License revocation||License revoked for 1 year|
|Jail||Up to 15 days if there are no injuries. Up to 3 months for refusing to provide insurance information in an accident with injuries, and up to 1 year for leaving the scene before police arrive.|
|Criminal conviction||Leaving the scene of an accident when there are injuries can result in a criminal conviction that becomes part of your criminal record.|
Severity of offenses for a New York hit-and-run accident
Is there ever a defense for a hit-and-run accident?
Some hit-and-run defendants will argue a mistake of fact. They might argue that they were genuinely unaware that they hit another vehicle or person, or that they believed there was no damage.
The other possibility is if the other driver was present and believes there was no damage. If they tell the at-fault driver not to worry about it or that it’s nothing, and the driver leaves without providing contact and insurance information, this might also serve as a valid defense.
What to do if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident
If a driver hits you in traffic and attempts to flee the scene — or if you walk out to your car and find damage that wasn’t there before — here’s what to do:
- Don’t attempt to chase or apprehend the driver. You might be tempted to follow the other driver if you can see them fleeing the scene, but don’t. For one thing, it’s never safe to engage in any kind of car chase. Second, it’s possible that the driver is intoxicated, armed, or dangerous. Catching the driver isn’t worth putting your own life (and the lives of others) in danger.
- Call the police. Even if you’re not injured and the damage is minimal, it can only benefit you to have a police report on file. It’s their job to assess the situation when they arrive.
- Make detailed notes. Write down as much as you can recall about how the accident happened. If you can remember any identifying details about the car or driver, those are important, too. For example, make note of the car’s license plate number, make, model, and color, if possible. If you were able to get a look at the driver, note any physical characteristics (tall, short, dark hair, glasses, etc.).
- Take car accident photos. A picture is worth a thousand words... or so the saying goes. If you have a smartphone, taking a few photos is an easy and fast way to have a good record of the damage and the circumstances around the accident. Be sure to photograph any damage to your car or other property, street signs or signals in the area, any other conditions that might provide information (weather, road conditions, etc.). Don’t be afraid to go overboard with the photography — you can always delete them later. Taking pictures of the scene from every angle can help your case if you need one.
- Gather witness information. If there are witnesses, gather their contact information. Write down their names, phone numbers, email address, and other pertinent data for anyone who might have observed what happened. Even if they think they didn’t see anything important, sometimes small details that don’t seem relevant to other people are actually quite important to police and lawyers.
- Call your insurance company. You can file a report without making a claim, but you might lose the opportunity to make a claim if you wait too long. Under New York’s PIP insurance law, you should be able to get some compensation for your injuries and damages, even if the other driver can’t be located.
- Contact a car accident lawyer. If you were unable to identify or locate the driver, an experienced attorney can launch their own investigation into who the at-fault driver is and how to find them — that way you can recover compensation. In hit-and-run cases resulting in severe injuries, this may be the only way to get full compensation for all of your injuries.
What if the driver gives you false information?
A hit-and-run isn’t always someone who hits your car and flees the scene. It can also be when the driver gives you false information — like a fake name and phone number — and then you have no way to reach them later.
If you’re in an accident, ask to see the driver’s license, registration, and insurance card. Even if the damage is so minor that you don’t think you’ll pursue a claim, it’s good to have this information just in case you later discover that the damage is more than it initially appeared. Unless you’re a car expert, it’s hard to know just by looking at your car what might be damaged under the exterior.
The possibility of false information is also why it’s important to take photos of the car and the license plate. Even if the driver provides a false name and number, they can usually still be found if you have their license plate number.
How to collect damages after a New York hit-and-run
New York requires drivers to be covered by no-fault insurance. That means if you suffered a physical injury, your medical treatment costs can be covered by your no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. That policy won’t cover damage to your vehicle or non-economic damages like pain and suffering or emotional distress.
New York auto insurance also includes uninsured motorist coverage, which might cover damage to your car in certain circumstances. In order to make a claim against your uninsured motorist coverage, you must prove that your vehicle made physical contact with another vehicle.
A hit-and-run accident is going to be harder to prove than an accident where the other driver is cooperative about sharing information. But there are ways to receive the damages you need to cover your costs.
An experienced lawyer has access to investigators, medical experts, financial professionals, and others who can help you receive damages. The Enjuris lawyer directory can be your source to find a New York personal injury lawyer who will resolve your hit-and-run claim.