There is no practical difference between a hit and run accident and leaving the scene of the accident. Generally, the latter description is used within a legal context, whereas the former is used colloquially. When a person leaves the scene of an accident, they have committed a hit and run offense. This is true whether the driver who leaves the scene was at fault or not. Further, a hit and run offense may be a traffic violation or a crime, depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident in New Jersey

Each state establishes its own laws regarding traffic accidents. In New Jersey, a person who leaves the scene of an accident with only property damage and no injuries could be charged with a traffic violation. There are various penalties for this violation, including jail time of up to 30 days, fines, suspension of their license, and points on their license. However, if someone was injured or killed, the driver can be charged with a criminal offense and a traffic violation. The criminal charge can result in prison time of up to five years, along with other penalties.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident in New York

Similarly, leaving the scene of an accident in New York may result in either a criminal charge or a traffic violation. A hit and run involving only property damage can result in a fine, points on the driver’s license and up to 15 days in jail. If someone was injured, leaving the scene is a criminal offense and can result in up to one year behind bars. If there was a fatality, the charge is upgraded to a felony that can result in up to seven years in prison.

Legal Recourse for Victims

Regardless of whether the driver who fled the scene is charged with a traffic violation or criminal offense, victims have legal recourse. It can be satisfying to know that the at-fault driver is held accountable for their negligence, but this will not pay the medical bills. However, victims can choose to file a civil claim. A civil claim against an at-fault driver will proceed entirely independently of any traffic court or criminal proceedings.

New York and New Jersey are both no-fault states regarding auto accidents. This means that victims must first go to their own insurance companies to receive compensation for their medical expenses. The no-fault rule doesn’t apply to property damage, however, and victims are free to file claims against at-fault drivers to secure compensation for their damaged vehicles.

It’s important to bear in mind that insurance companies don’t stay profitable by handing out fair settlements to auto accident victims. It’s in the insurer’s best interests to limit payments to injured individuals whenever possible. This is one reason why it’s essential to consult a car accident lawyer soon after a crash. Your lawyer can negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company.

Your attorney can also file a claim against the at-fault driver to recover compensation for your damaged car. Furthermore, if your case meets specific criteria, you may also have the right to sue for medical expenses beyond what your insurance will cover. Your attorney will carefully review the details of your case and your insurance policy to determine your options under state law.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Accident Lawyers in New York and New Jersey

If you or a loved one was hurt in a car accident, you need aggressive legal representation to protect your rights and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. At the personal injury law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C., we have a long track record of successfully securing substantial jury awards and settlements on behalf of our injured clients. We invite you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and consider filing a car accident lawsuit. We practice in both Rockland County, NY, and Bergen County, NJ.