What Happens if Someone Leaves the Scene of an Accident?

All drivers must alert emergency services when they are in an accident resulting in property damage worth more than $1,000 and/or a personal injury. It is also necessary to alert the police, insurance companies, and NYS DMV when the accident is serious. Hit-and-run accidents present a problem for injured victims seeking compensation, but with the help of our New York City car accident lawyers, the challenge is not insurmountable.

What Happens When Someone Leaves the Scene of an Accident?

Contacting the police is your best course of action if the other driver has fled the scene after your accident. Law enforcement agents will investigate, interview any witnesses, and check surveillance footage of the area (including traffic light cameras and nearby businesses). Some police departments can test the paint on the victim’s vehicle, at the point of impact, to determine the type of car.

They can then alert other law enforcement in the area to stop any such vehicle. They can also help investigate whether alcohol or drugs may have been a factor. If they can find enough evidence at the scene, they can go to the suspect’s residence or place of employment with a warrant for arrest.

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What Are the Consequences For Leaving the Scene of an Accident in New York?

A hit-and-run driver is in a world of trouble for leaving the scene of an accident where injuries have occurred:

  • Civil Penalties – Fines between $0 and $250 for property damage and $250 to $5,000 for personal injury apply. An additional surcharge of $88 to $93 is tacked on when the driver leaves the scene. If the driver’s identity is discovered, he or she can be sued for damages.  
  • Criminal Penalties – Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense in New York State, which means the motorist can get a record if convicted. These cases can be pursued as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount of damage and injuries. In some jurisdictions (outside of NYC), a driver could wind up spending up to 15 days in jail.
  • Administrative Penalties – The NYS Department of Motor Vehicles can automatically suspend or revoke your driver’s license for six months to three years. Leaving the accident scene automatically adds 3 points to your license on top of whatever other infractions you may have. Insurance rates often go up when a person is caught.

Can You Sue A Hit-and-Run Driver?

Additional punitive damages are almost guaranteed in cases of hit-and-run, which is widely viewed as morally reprehensible. Juries often interpret fleeing the scene as an implication of guilt or a sign that other crimes were simultaneously being committed. If you sue the other driver, you can obtain compensation to cover losses like medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. A personal injury attorney can help you through this process.

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How To Locate A Hit-and-Run Driver

A personal injury lawyer can help uncover the identities of hit-and-run drivers and then locate them. Since most of these lawyers work on contingency (where they only get paid if they recover money for their clients), it is in their best interest to conduct a thorough investigation. Lawyers work with the police, local businesses, witnesses, and neighbors.

If you have the license plate number, you can go through the Department of Motor Vehicles to find out the driver’s identity. Upon realizing the error of their ways, some drivers turn themselves in to avoid stricter punishments. 

Who Pays After A Hit-and-Run Accident?

There are several ways to obtain compensation following a hit-and-run collision:

  • The Negligent Driver – If the negligent driver can be located, you can file a claim with their auto insurance company. You may also seek a civil judgment against the driver with the help of a personal injury lawyer. If the motorist is charged criminally, a judge may also order the person to pay you restitution as part of a criminal sentence.
  • Your Auto Insurance Policy – As part of your “no-fault” benefits, you can also use your collision insurance to pay for vehicle repairs and car rental fees. You could receive coverage for medical bills if you purchased Med Pay, an optional insurance. New York State requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage that kicks in, regardless of who was at fault.

If you have any further questions about a NY hit-and-run accident that resulted in serious injury, contact Douglas and London. Our New York City personal injury lawyers have served the NYC area for more than two decades with unsurpassed results. Initial consultations are free, and you pay nothing unless we recover money on your behalf.


  1. Civil Liability and Compensation in a Hit and Run Accident Case, https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/auto-accident/liability-compensation-hit-run.html
  2. Consequences of a Hit and Run Accident, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/consequences-hit-run-accident.html
  3. Leaving the Scene of an Accident, https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/leaving-the-scene-of-an-accident-34319