Involved in a Car Accident? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Scene

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A car accident can be jarring and scary. In the immediate aftermath, your instinct might be to leave the ‌accident scene. This is the last thing you should do, especially if there are injuries, fatalities, or property damage. You could face terrible consequences for leaving the scene of an accident.

New York law states that you must exchange information with other motorists involved in the crash and, in some cases, contact law enforcement and wait for a police officer to arrive. You will need a police report if you plan on filing a claim with your insurance company. A Buffalo, New York motor vehicle accident attorney can guide you through the process of claiming damages. They can provide legal advice about why you should not leave the scene of a car accident and when you have to report the accident to the police. The Coppola Firm provides free consultations to provide our clients with up-to-date information about their legal rights and options.

I Was in a Car Accident in Buffalo. Can I Leave the Scene?

New York law prohibits motorists who have been involved in a car accident from leaving the scene if there is property damage, if anyone has suffered injuries, or if someone has lost their life. All drivers must exchange information with the other drivers at the scene of the accident. This information includes the following:

  • Full name;
  • Contact information;
  • Insurance information, including the name of the insurance company and the policy number; and
  • Driver’s license number.

Reasons Drivers Hit and Run

While leaving the scene of an accident is against the law in New York, it often happens without malicious intent. People may act quickly without thinking about the potential consequences. Reasons that a motorist might leave the scene of an accident might include:

  • Fear/panic: A driver realizes they have been involved in a car crash and leaves the scene of the accident in a panic.
  • Distraction: A driver worries about legal consequences for distracted driving.
  • No insurance: A driver does not have the insurance coverage required by New York law.
  • Warrants: A driver has outstanding warrants and does not want to be arrested.
  • Intoxication: A driver worries that a law enforcement officer will believe they are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Immigration status: They worry about getting deported if they are there when law enforcement arrives.

Unfortunately, many motorists are injured by such reasons. If someone flees the scene of a car accident, filing a personal injury claim can become even more difficult. Contact The Coppola Firm to learn more about what you can do in this circumstance.

What are the Consequences of Leaving the Scene of an Accident in New York?

If someone that injured you were to leave the scene of the accident, they could get a hit-and-run charge, among other possible consequences. Leaving the scene after an accident involving injuries is a serious charge that could result in the suspension or loss of a driver’s license and other penalties. It is not quite as serious an offense if there was only property damage, but a motorist could still face significant consequences.

Can the Passenger in a Car Accident Leave the Scene?

New York’s law against leaving the scene of an accident only applies to drivers. If you are a passenger in a motor vehicle involved in an accident, state law does not require you to stay. That said, if you suffered injuries and leave before law enforcement arrives to collect information for the police report, you could hurt your chance of recovering compensation in a personal injury claim later.

Can I Leave After Exchanging Information?

Once you have exchanged information with the other drivers involved in the accident, you may leave as long as no one has called the police. If law enforcement is on its way, New York law says that you must stay at the scene of the accident until they get there.

Do You Have to Report a Car Accident to the Police in Buffalo, New York?

Man on phone in foreground with damaged car in background

If a motor vehicle accident results in a fatality or injury, you must notify the police immediately and file a report with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You must file an accident report for any car accident that results in property damage of more than $1,000. You have ten days from the date of the accident to file the report.

New York law does not require you to report a car accident to your insurance company, however. If you want to claim no-fault benefits through your insurance policy, you must notify your provider within thirty days of the accident. Otherwise, they might deny your claim later.

Is New York a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?

New York is a “no-fault” state, meaning that you can recover compensation from your insurance company regardless of who was at fault in the accident. All drivers in New York must carry auto insurance with personal injury protection (PIP) coverage that pays compensation to the insured after an accident. PIP coverage pays compensation up to the policy limits for:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Lost wages;
  • Expenses related to the insured’s injuries, such as transportation costs for doctor visits or household assistance; and
  • Death benefits payable to the insured’s estate.

Because of no-fault insurance coverage, an injured person may only seek compensation from an at-fault driver, either through an insurance claim or a lawsuit, in limited circumstances. They may seek to recover the types of damages covered by PIP if their total losses exceed their policy limits. They can only recover noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering or mental anguish, if they suffered particularly serious injuries.

I Was the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident. What Should I Do?

If you have been involved in a hit-and-run accident, the following steps can help you stay safe while preserving your rights in a potential personal injury claim.

Get to Safety

Get yourself out of harm’s way. You do not want to move anything that police officers will need for the police report. You do, however, want to take care to make sure you and your passengers are not at risk of further injuries, such as if you are still in a lane of traffic where you risk another collision.

Check for Injuries

Check yourself and others, if possible, for injuries. New York law does not require people without medical training to render aid after an accident, but you might be able to provide reasonable assistance to injured persons at the scene. Take care, though, that you do not damage or interfere with evidence.

Seek Medical Attention

If necessary, call 911 and request emergency medical care for yourself or others.

Contact Law Enforcement

You are only obligated to call law enforcement immediately if the accident resulted in injuries or fatalities. If you plan on filing a claim with your insurance company, it might still be worth requesting their assistance since you will need a police report for the claim.

Police will need information about the other driver if they left the scene of the accident. This includes, if possible, a description of the vehicle and the license plate number.

Exchange Information

New York requires drivers to exchange information after accidents. If someone hit your vehicle while it is parked and they are not able to find you, they are supposed to leave a note on your car with their contact and insurance information.

Gather Evidence and Document Injuries

If you are able to do so, collect as much evidence as possible. This might include:

  • Names and contact information of witnesses at the scene;
  • Pictures of your injuries and any property damage that occurred; and
  • Descriptions of the vehicles involved, including license plate numbers.

Notify Your Insurance Company

You must notify your insurance company within thirty days of the accident in order to claim PIP benefits.

When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident

Legal advice from a car accident attorney can always be beneficial, but there are certain circumstances when you absolutely should consult with a lawyer, such as:

  • The accident involved more than one party;
  • The crash resulted in injuries, especially catastrophic injuries; or
  • You fled the scene.

How Can a Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer Help?

A Buffalo personal injury lawyer with experience handling New York car accident cases can help you with your case by:

  • Advising you on what steps to take;
  • Helping meet deadlines for filing;
  • Communicating with police and insurance; and
  • Fighting for you in court or in settlement negotiations.

The attorneys at The Coppola Firm have decades of collective experience working on both sides of cases involving hit-and-run accidents and other car accident cases. We are very familiar with New York’s personal injury laws, and we know how to deal with insurance companies and their defense attorneys.

The Coppola Firm is Buffalo’s only woman-owned personal injury law firm. We offer:

  • Free consultations for personal injury cases;
  • Free advice videos; and
  • A ground-floor Buffalo office location with free parking

We’ll Stand By You After Your Accident

woman on phone in foreground with accident behind her in background

Hit-and-run accidents can cause devastating injuries and confusion about what to do next. If you have been injured in a hit-and-run accident, you may have a legal right to recover damages. An insurance company’s settlement offer might not cover all of the care you need. An experienced New York car accident lawyer can fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact The Coppola Firm today by calling 716-839-9700 or filling out the online contact form to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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