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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: February 2, 2012
A man in a stress while checking some papers - Leckerman Law, LLC

What would you do if you were in an accident? Chances are hanging around to make a police report isn’t the first thing that crosses your mind.If you are in New Jersey, though, it should be. Failure to report an accident in NJ is illegal under N.J.S. 39:4-130 and can cause more problems than just the accident alone.

It can be assumed that accidents are not done with intent, but that is not a reason to simply ignore them. With every accident there is a legal responsibility to remain at the scene and report it to the police. Providing identifying information and assisting with any victims is the bare minimum a driver should do if involved in an accident.

Even though failure to report an accident is illegal, it isn’t just the career criminals that are tempted to do it. It is easy to understand, because almost anyone who drives may be involved in an accident and not everyone may feel it necessary to report the accident. Sometimes it is because the driver in the accident may think the accident is too small to report, or there may not be anyone present to report the accident to. In some cases, the driver is too scared to report the accident.

39:4-130 reads: The driver of a vehicle or street car involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person, or damage to property of any one person in excess of $500.00 shall by the quickest means of communication give notice of such accident to the local police department or to the nearest office of the county police of the county or of the State Police, and in addition shall within 10 days after such accident forward a written report of such accident to the commission on forms furnished by it.

For most accidents, police will arrive on the scene to take a report. This can occur after they are either notified by witnesses to the accident or the victims themselves. When this happens the police will gather all of the required information.

When this does not happen, or police are not able to arrive, it is the responsibility of those involved to report the accident within ten days. The report would include specific information about the accident, including all vehicles involved, and the cause. Although the reports are very detailed and legally required, they are not publicly available. Completing the police report is solely for fulfilling the legal requirement of reporting the accident.

How small is too small of an accident to report? In New Jersey, all accidents that cause at least $500 in damages must be reported to a police department. If the driver of the accident is not the owner of the car, the owner of the car is responsible for ensuring that the report is made. Occupants in the vehicle during the accident can also be required to notify police if the driver is physically unable to do so.

The penalties for failure to report an accident in NJ are very specific. There is a fine of $30 to$100. Driving privileges can also be revoked or suspended due to not following this law.

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