Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident – What are the Consequences?

December 15, 2020

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

You’ve been in a car accident. Now what? Under New York law, you are required to exchange information with those involved in the accident. You can also provide that information to a police officer. Otherwise, you can be ticketed for leaving the scene of an accident. Leaving the scene charges can stem from traditional hit-and-run car accidents. It can also include leaving after hitting another object, such as a parked car or telephone pole. But what are the consequences of such a charge?


Leaving the Scene After Damage to Property or Injury to Animals

If damage has been done to property and you leave the scene, you can be charged under Vehicle & Traffic Law § 600(1)(a). This is a traffic infraction punishable by up to 15 days in jail. Note that in NYC, if your ticket is pending in a DMV Traffic Violations Bureau the administrative law judge has no jurisdiction to order jail time. In any event, usually jail time is not imposed and a fine up to $250 is issued, plus a court surcharge. In addition to these penalties, the DMV will add three (3) points to your license. Your insurance rates can also be affected.

If you’re charged with leaving the scene after injury to an animal, this would fall under Vehicle & Traffic Law § 601. The injury must be to a horse, dog, cat, or cattle. The fines range from $0 to $100 for a first offense, and for subsequent offenses $50 to $150. If the injured animal is a service dog, the fines increase from $50 to $100 for a first offense, and $150 to $300 for subsequent offenses.


Increased Penalties for Leaving the Scene Where There’s Personal Injury

What happens if a person is injured in the accident? You can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury. This falls under Vehicle & Traffic Law § 600(2)(a). Where a person is injured, the charge carries increased penalties.

For a first offense, the charge is an A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. You can also receive probation or a Conditional Discharge. This is in addition to fines and surcharges. The DMV will also add three (3) points to your license, and you may also face losing your license for up to one year.

If you’ve previously been convicted of leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury, the charge is elevated to an E felony. This means you can be sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison. The offense can also be charged as an E felony if the person is seriously injured (where the injury creates a substantial risk of death, or causes long-term impairment of health, disfigurement, or loss of function of an organ). If the person dies, leaving the scene can be charged as a D felony, punishable by up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.


Other Important Information

The law is clear – if you’re involved in an accident, you must stop, exchange information, and (in many cases) wait for police to arrive. This applies even if you are not at fault in the accident. You must make a good-faith effort to exchange your information after any accident. And you should contact police and your insurance company. This is even when the damage is minor.

There are limited circumstances where you can leave the scene. This is where you’ve left to notify the police, if you need medical care, or if you feel unsafe. There must be a clear and present danger in order for the last exception to apply; this can be if the other driver is threatening you.

If you’ve been accused of leaving the scene of an accident, call our office today. Pappalardo & Pappalardo, LLP can advise you and answer all your questions about what to do with a ticket for leaving the scene.