Like many others in the Southern Tier, we enjoyed the July 4th extravaganza at Highland Park this year and parking spaces were tight. In the exodus after the fireworks, we witnessed a car bump the back end of another parked vehicle ahead that was unoccupied, drawing a reaction from the crowd leaving on foot. Some bystanders were in a stupor, wondering whether to alert the police to the fender bender, since the owner of the damaged vehicle was not there to witness the game of bumper cars. The offender casually drove off into the smoke-filled horizon.

This raises the question of what the law says in terms of reporting an auto accident, and so we’ll offer our perspective from a New York personal injury law firm. In answering the riddle of when to report a car accident, it’s important to compartmentalize between accidents that create injury to a person, and those that involve property damage.

In recent memory, we mourn the loss of a BU student who was killed in a tragic hit and run accident.

Although this is an extreme example, it punctuates the seriousness of fleeing the scene of a “hit and run” which can result in weighty criminal charges.

When someone is injured or killed in a crash, New York law dictates that the driver must report the accident “as soon as physically able.” There is no specificity on this term, but common sense prevails – when there is bodily injury, call 911 and if you don’t have a phone, find one without delay, flag someone down or drive to the nearest police station.

Fortunately, the traffic and car accident lawyers at Chris Brown Law see more regular cases when the car does what it is supposed to do when absorbing the energy impacts, and there is only damage to the vehicle. In these sort of minor accidents or fender benders, New York State wants some transparency.

When damages to the property of any individual exceed $1,000, the DMV requires an accident report within 10 days. You can download the requisite form here.

We also note that when the accident causes property damages, information must be exchanged about your driver license, insurance, and registration of the drivers.

Finally, if a parked vehicle is damaged, or if a domestic animal in injured, drivers are required to locate the owner or contact the police. In our introductory example at the July 4th event, the offender should have knocked on doors to ascertain the owner of the vehicle, inquired to nearby party goers if they knew who the car belonged to, or call the police to report the incident.

Whenever there is damage to life, limb or property, there will be consequences to varying extents and so if you are involved in an auto accident, it’s prudent to reach out to the personal injury and auto accident attorneys of Chris Brown Law, serving Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Chemung and Deleware Counties.