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Feifer & Greenberg, LLP |
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Leaving The Scene Of An Accident In New York

If you damage property that belongs to someone else or injure someone while driving your vehicle, you’ll be held accountable for your actions. The potential financial and/or other ramifications of an accident will vary depending on a number of different factors. Traffic tickets, insurance increases, civil law suits, license suspensions, criminal prosecution…all are possibilities following certain accidents in certain situations.

If you try to leave the scene of the accident without taking responsibility, you’ll risk further penalties under the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Laws. These laws don’t treat all accidents equally, so whether you face any additional charges and what the severity of those charges may be depends on the type of accident/damage involved. The VTL basically breaks accidents down to three categories:

  • Damage to property (not animals)
  • Damage to (certain) animals
  • Damage to people

Leaving the scene of an incident involving property damage NYS VTL Sec. 600-1

Any person operating a motor vehicle who gets into an accident with another vehicle or hits a parked car or hits a mailbox or other property must stop and exhibit their license and registration to the owner of the damaged property. If no owner is at the scene, then the driver must report the incident as soon as physically able to the nearest police station.

A violation of this section carries three points and it is a violation, not a misdemeanor or more serious criminal category of offense.

Leaving the scene of an incident involving injury to certain animals NYS VTL Sec. 601

Any person operating a motor vehicle which shall strike and injure any horse, dog, cat or animal classified as cattle must stop and exhibit their license and registration to the owner of the damaged property. If no owner is at the scene, then the driver must report the incident as soon as physically able to the nearest police station.

A violation of this sections carries three points and it is a violation, not a misdemeanor or more serious criminal category of offense.

It’s interesting to note here the distinction made between animals which seem to have some value to humans and all other animals. Dogs and cats have the emotional value, horses and cattle the financial value. I’m not quite sure about the “classified as cattle” part of it but I imagine that legal research can wait until I have a client charged with injuring goats or sheep or other potentially protected animals and not stopping. Squirrels, geese, raccoons…sorry guys. The law allows a driver to leave a trail of your carcasses in his wake without even slowing down.

Leaving the scene of an incident involving personal injury NYS VTL Sec. 600-2

Any person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person must stop and exhibit their license and registration to the injured individual. The operator must also report the incident as soon as physically able to the nearest police officer or station.

A violation of this sections is actually significantly more serious than a traffic violation.  It’s a misdemeanor. It will be treated as a criminal matter and may result in a permanent criminal record and can have lasting ramifications well beyond those of simple violations.

Oddly enough the misdemeanor version is the only one which does not come with any points. The law which sets forth point values specifically allots three points for “leaving the scene of a property damage incident or injury to an animal without reporting”. Personal injury is clearly omitted and falls under a catchall for a number of different violations that don’t carry any points at all.

Scott Feifer