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  • Writer's pictureAlex Maltese

Can You Go to Jail for a Car Accident in New York?

Unfortunately, fatal car accidents are a common occurrence in New York. From the loss of a life to the potential of facing criminal charges, this is an overwhelming and unfortunate situation. One of the most common questions people have surrounding this scenario is, "Can you go to jail for a car accident in New York?"


New York law can be challenging to navigate, which is why it's crucial to speak to an experienced attorney about the possible legal consequences and jail time. They can advise on who pays for medical bills in a car accident in New York.


Criminal Charges

Criminal Charges


To answer the question, yes, people can go to jail for a car accident in New York. However, this is uncommon and is only the case if the at-fault driver is found guilty of acting recklessly or intentionally trying to cause harm. The prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the at-fault party was grossly negligent when driving or had the intention to hurt someone else.


Let's look at some examples where drivers could go to jail for causing an accident:


First-degree Vehicular Manslaughter

In New York, an example of first-degree vehicular manslaughter is driving under the influence with a BAC over 0.18% and causing someone's death. This is considered a major offense with serious legal consequences, such as up to 15 years in jail. Other penalties may also be imposed, such as fines up to $5,000 and a revoked or suspended driver's license.


Second-degree Vehicular Manslaughter

Under New York law, second-degree vehicular manslaughter occurs when someone causes the death of another individual while they are driving under various circumstances. This is considered a Class D felony and is punishable by up to 7 years in prison. Furthermore, the guilty party could also face fines up to $5,000 and have their license suspended or revoked.


Anyone facing these charges has to serve a minimum of one-third of their sentence before they're eligible for parole.


Civil Liability


Under civil liability claims, the at-fault driver may be sued under wrongful death laws by the decedent's family or estate.


When dealing with this type of lawsuit, the prosecutor must prove that the at-fault party drove carelessly or negligently. Essentially, this means that the driver responsible for the car accident failed to follow New York law in terms of safety regulations or did not take the necessary precautions while driving.


Depending on the outcome of the case, the deceased's family or estate may receive compensation for one or more of the following:

  • Medical bills

  • Loss of income

  • Burial and funeral costs

  • Pain and suffering

  • And more


Hit-and-run Accidents


A hit-and-run accident is another situation where at-fault drivers could face jail time. In a hit-and-run accident, the driver that hit another car, bicyclist, or pedestrian failed to stop and assess whether there were any serious injuries or property damage. Instead, the responsible party simply flees the scene of an accident. Any at-fault driver caught fleeing the scene of an accident can face criminal charges.


In terms of section 600 of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, any driver involved in a hit-and-run accident that caused damage or injury to a property, person, or domestic animal needs to stay at the scene of the accident.


What Penalties Can an Individual Face for a Hit-and-run Accident?

The penalty will differ depending on the severity of the accident. In general, the guilty party could face a felony, misdemeanor, or traffic infraction or violation. A traffic infraction occurs when the driver fails to share license and insurance information or flees an accident scene after causing property damage.


Potential penalties include:

  • Traffic infraction: A maximum of 15 days in prison and a fine of up to $250.

  • Class A misdemeanor: Up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

  • Class B misdemeanor: A maximum of 90 days in jail and a fine not exceeding $500.

  • Class D felony: Up to 7 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

  • Class E felony: A maximum of 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

Furthermore, anyone convicted of a hit-and-run will have a criminal record.


Administrative Penalties


Negligent or reckless drivers are not only at risk of facing jail time when they cause a fatal car accident. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or other local authorities may impose further penalties, such as fines and license suspension. The Law Office of Carl Maltese can help answer questions such as, "Does the at fault driver pay for rental car in New York?"


What to Do After a Car Accident

What to Do After a Car Accident


After an accident, one needs to confirm there are no injuries and that the accident is reported. Therefore, the following steps need to be adhered:

  1. Stop and determine if there's any serious injury or property damage.

  2. Exchange insurance information with the other driver or parties involved in the collision.

  3. Report the accident to the local police department/

  4. Wait for a police officer to arrive and fill out an accident report detailing the collision, what happened, any witnesses, etc.


What to Do When Facing Criminal Charges or Civil Liability After a Car Accident


Causing a fatal car accident is a serious matter that needs to be acted upon immediately. Depending on the severity of the accident and other factors, guilty parties are at risk of facing jail time and steep fines.


Therefore, it's crucial to contact a knowledgeable car accident law firm that has experience handling fatal vehicle accidents. These professionals know how to develop a strong defense strategy in accordance with the law and will ensure their clients' rights are protected at all times.


Contact a New York Vehicle Accident Attorney Today!


Car accidents, whether fatal or not, can be catastrophic. Therefore, there are times when those responsible for the accident will face criminal charges and run the risk of going to jail. Whether you have been injured in a car crash or are at risk of facing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit, it's vital to speak to a knowledgeable motor vehicle accident attorney who can offer expert legal advice. The professionals at The Law Office of Carl Maltese, located in Long Island, New York, have dealt with thousands of cases over the years and will fight aggressively for clients to ensure their rights are not infringed upon.

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