Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in New York?

Learn what kinds of car accidents need to be reported in New York, and what happens if you don't report the crash.

If you get into a car accident in New York, do you need to report it? Every state has different rules for drivers to follow. Read on for the details of a driver's obligations after a car accident in New York state.

When Must a Car Accident Be Reported in New York?

In New York, the law is different for accidents involving personal injury and accidents involving only damage to property (such as vehicle damage).

For accidents involving personal injury, the driver of the car that caused the injury must report the accident. For accidents involving only property damage, the driver of the car that caused the injury only has to report the accident if the owner of the damaged property is not present at the accident scene.

If the accident qualifies as a reportable one, then as soon as he or she is physically able, the driver must report the accident to the nearest police station or judicial officer. New York law does not specify what “as soon as physically able” means, but logically we can infer that the driver must report the accident immediately -- by cell phone if the driver has one or can borrow one. If the driver cannot report the accident by cell phone, then the next fastest way to report the accident would be by pay phone, if one is nearby.

If there are no pay phones in the vicinity, then the driver should drive to the local police department, county police, or State Police to report the accident in person if his/her vehicle is operable. Finally, if the driver’s vehicle is not working, then he/she should report the accident by phone as soon as he/she gets home.

Does the Driver Have to File a Written Accident Report?

In New York, the driver of a car involved in an accident must file a written accident report within 10 days of the accident, on an official New York State DMV motorist accident report form, if:

  • a person was killed or injured in the crash, or
  • the accident caused damage to the property of any one person in excess of $1,000.

What If You Don’t Report an Accident in New York?

New York has a number of different punishments for failure to report an accident.

Failure to make the immediate oral report of an accident involving only property damage is punishable by up to 15 days in jail, a fine of $250, or both.

Failure to make the immediate oral report of an accident involving personal injury is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than $500 and up to $1,000, up to 1 year in jail, or both. However, failure to make the immediate oral report of an accident involving a serious physical injury is a Class E felony, punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 and up to $2,500, up to 4 years in jail, or both.

Finally, failure to file a written accident report is a misdemeanor and constitutes grounds for suspension or revocation of the driver’s license or vehicle registration.

What If I am Unable to File the Written Report Within 10 Days?

If the driver is physically incapable of filing the written accident report within 10 days, and there was a passenger in the vehicle who is capable of filing the report, the passenger must do so within 10 days.

Alternatively, if the driver is physically incapable of making the written accident report, and the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, then the owner must make the report within 10 days after he/she learns about the accident.

More Information on Car Accidents in New York

For more details on the rules for reporting a car accident in New York, you can refer to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, Article 22, sections 600 and 605.

And for more state-specific information on car accidents, check out our articles Car Accident Laws in New York and New York No-Fault Car Insurance Rules.

Should I Report The Accident To My Automobile Insurance Company?

No state requires its drivers to report a car accident to their car insurance company, but you would want to report any kind of accident to your insurer so that you are in compliance with your insurance contract.

All standard automobile insurance contracts in every state require an insured to report any accident within a reasonable period of time (meaning a day or two). Otherwise the insurer may deny coverage for the accident.

So, even if your car accident was minor and did not rise to the level of a “reportable accident” as New York state defines it, you should report the accident to your insurer so you definitely have coverage in case you end up needing it.

I've Reported the Accident -- What's Next?

After a car accident, reporting it may be just the first step, especially if there were serious injuries or the other driver claims you were at fault. For everything else you need to know, check out all the articles in our First Steps After a Car Accident section.

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