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Do You Have to Report a Car Accident in California?

Posted on January 10, 2020 in Car Accidents

Car accidents happen every day in California. The odds of you eventually being involved in a collision are relatively high. In 2016, 3,623 people died in motor vehicle crashes in California. Thousands of auto accidents injure victims and take lives annually. As a crash victim, one of the most important things you can do to protect your rights is to report the accident. An accident report can officially document the crash and help lead to justice against the person at fault. Prompt reporting could help you recover financial compensation.

California Car Accident Report

Call 911 From the Scene

It is one of your duties as a driver involved in a serious accident to call 911 from the scene of the crash. In California, the law obligates drivers to report car accidents to the police if they cause any injuries, deaths or collective property damage exceeding $1,000. Certain cities in California also require crash participants to call the police after more minor car accidents.

After a collision, remain at the scene as close to the site of the crash as is safely possible. Use your cellphone to dial 911 for the closest law enforcement department. Report your accident in detail, giving your location and stating whether anyone has any injuries. Request an ambulance or emergency medical care for any injured parties. Then, stay at the scene until the police arrive and give you permission to leave.

The responding police officer will investigate the crash, take official photographs of the scene of the accident and fill out a California Report of Traffic Accident. The officer will fill out and submit this form to authorities if the crash caused property damage of $1,000 or more, injuries or deaths. If either driver requests the form, the police will also comply.

Fill Out Report SR 1

If a police officer fills out an accident report, he or she will submit it to the Department of Motor Vehicles no later than 14 days from the date of accident (when submitted electronically) or 15 days following the end of the month in which the officer prepared the report for non-electronically submitted reports. Otherwise, under California Vehicle Code section 20008, you must file a written report of the crash yourself within 24 hours.

Traffic Accident Report SR 1 is the form you must submit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Every driver must submit this form within 10 days of the crash. SR 1 can help involved parties keep track of all facts and details about the accident while they are still fresh in the driver’s mind. It is a tool that can be useful later, during the car accident reporting process and/or a personal injury lawsuit. Your insurance company may also want a copy of the SR 1.

Contact an Insurance Company

You must also report your car accident to insurance companies in California. First, contact the insurance provider of the party that caused your car accident. The at-fault party will be financially responsible for your damages under California’s tort-based insurance system. Describe the accident and answer the claims adjuster’s questions as honestly as possible without admitting fault for the crash. Politely decline to issue a recorded statement to the claims adjuster. Then, contact a top Los Angeles auto accident attorney for advice on how to proceed with your insurance claim.

Get a Copy of Your Police Report in California

Obtaining a copy of your police report could help you fill out an insurance claim and/or bring a claim against an at-fault party in court. You can obtain a copy of your police report after a crash by visiting the police department in the county where your crash occurred. Visit the Records Unit and pay a small fee to pick up copies of the report. You may also be able to order a police crash report online, also for a small fee. You will need basic facts about your accident to locate it online. You may need to wait several days from the date of your crash before the police station will make the report available.