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Bumping another vehicle or property such as a mailbox or a sign can happen. But if a driver flees the scene without providing their information or making sure no one was hurt, it likely qualifies as a hit-and-run in New Jersey.
New Jersey hit-and-run laws dictate that leaving the scene of an accident could mean fines, license suspension or, in more serious cases, jail time. Knowing the proper steps to take after an accident could minimize the consequences.
Hit-and-runs in New Jersey
Recent data show that so far in 2023, New Jersey has recorded 210 crashes and 219 fatalities. And hit-and-run accidents have been trending upward nationwide, according to AAA. Some experts point to distracted motorists as a driving force behind the increase.
Regardless of whether you are behind the wheel, on a bicycle or on foot, staying alert and being aware of hit-and-run laws in the state could help prevent a severe outcome.
New Jersey hit-and-run laws
New Jersey Revised Statute Sections 39:4-129 state that drivers who strike a person or property must immediately stop. Those who don’t remain at the scene of the accident could be charged with a hit-and-run. The repercussions that follow will depend on the severity of the accident.
A New Jersey hit-and-run conviction could lead to a minimum fine ranging between $200 to $400 for a first offense, plus a potential driver’s license suspension. If someone was injured or killed, the driver might be charged with a third-degree felony and face imprisonment on top of a $2,500 to $5,000 fine. All of this applies even if the driver claims they were not aware of any serious injury caused at the time of the incident.
In addition to legal issues, a hit-and-run driver will likely have to pay higher auto insurance premiums once they’re permitted to drive again.
How hit-and-runs impact car insurance rates in New Jersey
In New Jersey, the average cost of a full coverage auto insurance policy is $1,754. Causing an accident of any sort could amount to an average spike of $829 a year, but a hit-and-run is likely to impact rates even more. That’s because the driver will have both an accident and a criminal conviction on their record and could be classified as high-risk in the eyes of insurers.
5 things to do after a hit-and-run in New Jersey
Even the safest drivers may cause an accident. However, how you handle the situation could make all the difference between a standard accident and the more serious crime of leaving the scene. To avoid being charged with a hit-and-run, consider taking the following precautions:
- Stop immediately: New Jersey drivers who are involved in a collision are required by law to immediately stop. Leaving the scene may be classified as a hit-and-run.
- Assess the situation and the parties involved: After stopping, drivers should find out if everyone is okay. If it is unclear whether someone may be hurt, it could be a good idea to stick around for emergency services.
- Call for emergency services: If anyone appears disoriented or hurt, drivers should call 911 right away and request help at the scene of the accident.
- Document what happened: If there are no injuries or help is on the way, drivers should safely move to the side of the road to assess the damage, take photos and exchange information. Drivers who have damaged the property of someone who is not present should leave their contact information with a brief explanation of what happened.
- Call your insurance carrier: After any accident, drivers should call their New Jersey insurance company right away. Doing so before leaving the scene may make it easier to provide detailed information while it is still top of mind. Send photos, as well, to show the extent of the damage.
Will insurance cover a hit-and-run?
Depending on the coverage on a driver’s policy, insurance may help to pay for damages resulting from a hit-and-run:
- Liability coverage: Liability insurance is required by law. Property damage liability is designed to help pay for damage to other drivers’ vehicles and/or property after an at-fault accident, while bodily injury liability is meant to help pay for the other party’s injuries.
- Personal injury protection: As a no-fault state, New Jersey requires drivers to have personal injury protection (PIP). PIP is designed to help pay for your injuries and any injuries that your passengers sustain, regardless of who is at fault for an accident.
- Collision coverage: Collision insurance is an optional coverage type that’s meant to help pay for damage your vehicle sustains after an accident you cause, whether incurred from colliding with another vehicle or a stationary object.
- Uninsured motorist coverage: Uninsured motorist insurance is another optional coverage type that can help pay for expenses if you are involved in an accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance to cover your or your passengers’ damages.
Frequently asked questions
A hit-and-run is also known as leaving the scene of an accident. If you strike an object, such as the side-view mirror of someone’s parked car, and you fail to stop and leave your information, you could be charged with a hit-and-run. In more severe cases, hitting a pedestrian and leaving the scene could end fatally if an injured pedestrian is not able to call for help. If caught after the fact, the driver could be charged with a felony.
A hit-and-run is considered more serious and is more expensive than a standard accident, on average. A driver’s average cost of car insurance could double if convicted of leaving the scene of an accident.