Owner presumed Responsible for Leaving the Scene – Amended NJSA 39:4-129 – Lyman Bud Kay Rule

Yesterday, the governor signed into law certain amendments to the leaving the scene of an accident statute, NJSA 39:4-129. The amendments provide that there will now be a permissive inference that can be drawn by the fact finder in court that the registered owner of a motor vehicle was involved in the motor vehicle accident for which the driver left the scene. The amendment also creates a new offense of concealing the identity of a person who has been involved in an accident and has left the scene. The legislature also made similar amendments to the failure to report statute under NJSA 39:4-130.

Note that the permissive inference does not call for a conclusion that the owner was the operator of the offending vehicle, but merely that such person was “involved” in the accident.

Copies of the amended portions of the two statutes are included with this muni-mail.

Amendment to NJSA 39:4-129(e)

(e) There shall be a permissive inference that the driver of any motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person or damage in the amount of $250.00 or more to any vehicle or property has knowledge that he was involved in such accident.

For purposes of this section, it shall not be a defense that the operator of the motor vehicle was unaware of the existence or extent of personal injury or property damage caused by the accident as long as the operator was aware that he was involved in an accident.

There shall be a permissive inference that the registered owner of the vehicle which was involved in an accident subject to the provisions of this section was the person involved in the accident; provided, however, if that vehicle is owned by a rental car company or is a leased vehicle, there shall be a permissive inference that the renter or authorized driver pursuant to a rental car contract or the lessee, and not the owner of the vehicle, was involved in the accident, and the requirements and penalties imposed pursuant to this section shall be applicable to that renter or authorized driver or lessee and not the owner of the vehicle.

Any person who suppresses, by way of concealment or destruction, any evidence of a violation of this section or who suppresses the identity of the violator shall be subject to a fine of not less than $250 or more than $1,000.

Amendment to NJSA 39:4-130

In those cases where a driver knowingly violates the provisions of this section by failing to make a written report of an accident, there shall be a permissive inference that the registered owner of the vehicle which was involved in that accident was the person involved in the accident; provided, however, if that vehicle is owned by a rental car company or is a leased vehicle, there shall be a permissive inference that the renter or authorized driver pursuant to a rental car contract or the lessee, and not the owner of the vehicle, was the person involved in the accident, and the requirements and penalties imposed pursuant to this section shall be applicable to that renter or authorized driver or lessee and not the owner of the vehicle.

Any person who suppresses, by way of concealment or destruction, any evidence of a violation of this section or who suppresses the identity of the violator shall be subject to a fine of not less than $250 or more than $1,000.

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