If you get into a car accident in New Jersey, are you legally required to report it? If so, how soon do you need to make a report? And what happens if you fail to make the report? We'll answer these questions and more in the following sections.
In New Jersey, the driver of a vehicle that was involved in a car accident must report the crash if it:
The driver must report the accident to the local police department, the nearest office of the county police, or the New Jersey State Police.
The driver must report the accident by the "quickest means of communication." New Jersey statutes don't specify what that phrase means, but logically we can assume that the driver must report the accident immediately afterward, 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 quickest means of communication 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 when he/she gets home.
Yes, the driver must file a written accident report within 10 days after the accident, on an official state form. (See the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Motor Vehicle Accident Report.)
Failure to report a reportable accident in New Jersey is punishable by a fine of between $30 and $100 and suspension of the driver’s license and car registration.
If the driver is physically incapable of giving required immediate oral notice of the accident -- or cannot make the written accident report -- and there was another occupant in the vehicle at the time of the accident who is capable of taking these actions, the occupant must make the required reports, or have someone else make them.
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 him or herself.
The law does not explain what will happen if the operator is physically incapable of making the report and there was no one else in the vehicle (or if the driver is also the owner of the vehicle and can't make the report). If you are the driver of a vehicle that was in an accident in New Jersey and you were physically incapable of meeting your legal obligations to report the crash, you may want to speak with a New Jersey lawyer.
For more information on the rules for reporting a car accident in New Jersey, you can refer to New Jersey Statutes section 39:4-130. And for more details on state laws that could affect a car accident case, check out our articles Car Accident Laws in New Jersey and New Jersey No-Fault Car Insurance Rules.
No state requires its drivers to report a car accident to their car insurance company. That's a legal obligation that arises out of the terms of your car insurance policy.
All standard automobile insurance contracts -- in every state -- require the insured person to report any accident within a reasonable period of time (that means within a day or two). If you don't report the accident right away, the insurer may deny coverage for the crash. So, even if you think your car accident was minor and did not rise to the level of a “reportable accident” according to New Jersey's rule, you should report it to your insurer so you're guaranteed coverage for the accident if you end up needing it. Learn more: Contact Your Car Insurance Company After an Accident.
Reporting a car accident may be just the first step. For everything else you need to know, we've got you covered in our First Steps After a Car Accident section.