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Do You Need to Report a Car Accident in California?

Posted in car accidents on August 1, 2019

Car accidents are very common occurrences on California roads, from serious multi-car collisions to minor bumps and scratches. If you are in an accident where no one suffers serious injuries or damage, you may wonder if you need to report the car accident to law enforcement or the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, California state law does require you to file a report whenever a car accident happens.

Reporting the Crash to Law Enforcement

It is the law in California to report a car accident after it occurs. All drivers of any vehicles involved in the accident will need to make a written report to the California Highway Patrol or to the local police department within 24 hours of the crash – but only if the crash led to someone’s injuries or death.

That is a very quick turnaround, so it is important to call law enforcement as soon as possible after the crash. Any police officer who responds to your accident will make a written report on your behalf so that you do not have to. If a car accident does not involve a person’s injury or death, you do not have to make a report.

However, the moments after a car accident can be disorienting. You may not feel as if you have any injuries, and you may decline to report the car accident to law enforcement. However, injuries after an accident may become apparent hours or days after the initial crash. It is important to report the crash to law enforcement immediately after it occurs.

Reporting the Crash to the Department of Motor Vehicles

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may also need to report the crash to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. You have 10 days to report your car accident to the DMV if you meet any of the following criteria.

  • If anyone involved in your accident suffered injuries, including minor injuries
  • If someone died as a result of the car accident
  • The accident led to property damage that totals more than $750

You will need to submit a SR-1 form to the DMV to satisfy this reporting requirement. This form will ask you about the people involved in the car accident, any injuries or deaths that occurred, details about the property damage, and insurance information.

What to Do After a Car Accident in California

Meeting these reporting requirements is not only important to comply with state law – if you suffered any physical, emotional, or property damage, you could use these reports as evidence in an insurance claim or lawsuit. Through these processes, you can recover compensation to help you pay for any out-of-pocket losses that occurred as a result of the accident. However, it is important to take action as soon as possible after the accident.

  • Call 911 to bring emergency medical services and law enforcement officers to the accident scene. The officer will file the written report on your behalf, so that you do not have to worry about it later.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible to treat your injuries. Your medical report will be a key piece of evidence in your future claim.
  • Document evidence at the scene. Take pictures of any damage that your vehicles suffered, as well as your own injuries and the general area around the scene. Ask the witnesses in the area if you can have their contact information.
  • Contact an accident attorney. You can discuss the facts of your case with this attorney and begin the lawsuit process.

If you are in a car accident in California, it is important to remain calm and to report the incident to law enforcement as soon as possible. Not only does the state require you to do so, but a police report can greatly assist you in filing your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. After you file and seek medical attention, contact a car accident attorney to assist you with your case.