It is tempting to avoid reporting a car accident in New Jersey, particularly if the accident is minor. The other driver may get out of the car and ask to handle the situation more informally or avoid involving the police for some reason or another. However, this approach could land you in hot water from both a criminal and a civil standpoint. Most New Jersey car accident attorneys will recommend that you get a police report to help with your case after an accident.
Reporting Requirements Under New Jersey Law
Drivers are required to report an accident if the collision meets one of the following conditions:
- Property damage of over $500 occurred
- The accident resulted in injury or death
You are required to report the crash to the local police department, New Jersey State Police, or the nearest county police office. You must notify the authorities as soon as possible, but there are no clear guidelines on an actual timeline. It is best to err on the side of sooner than later.
Criminal Consequences of Failing to Report an Accident
If you do not report an accident that meets the requirements listed above, you may have to pay a fine of up to $100.00. You may also have your driver’s license and car registration suspended.
Even if you are unsure whether your accident would qualify as one that should be reported, it is a good idea to report the accident.
Police Reports and Your Personal Injury Case
Police reports provide a third-party account of the accident. Most people expect that an unbiased third party, especially a police officer, will report the facts of the accident accurately. The report itself also contains valuable information, such as:
- Contact information for the other driver and any passengers
- Insurance data for both drivers
- Witness information
- Make and model of the vehicles and whether they were damaged
- Date, time, and location data
- Road conditions and weather (usually)
Although most police reports are not admissible at trial, they are a helpful source of information as you develop your case.
Police reports in New Jersey are also vital in personal injury cases for another very important reason: damages. You are required to report certain accidents. If you do not report the accident, you leave open an argument for the defense. They can assert that you were not actually injured because of the accident or that your property damage is not as severe as you claim because of your failure to report. That is, declining to report the collision undermines your damage claims at trial. If you did not think the accident was severe enough to report, a jury might believe that the crash was also not serious enough to cause your injuries or related damages.
Learn more about proving damages and the value of police reports by contacting Nagel Rice, LLP. Our New Jersey car accident attorneys can help you develop your personal injury case to present it to a judge, jury, or an insurance company. Contact us today to learn more.