It is never a good time for a car accident, but it seems that those minor fender benders always happen when you are in a rush to get somewhere. What’s more, accident reports may mean you run the risk of a traffic ticket, charges, and a higher insurance premium. Do you really have to report minor accidents to the police?
In the state of California, the law states that after an accident, all involved drivers must stop. This law does not account for the severity of the accident, so even in cases of minor fender benders, both drivers must stop; if you are the only driver involved and hit a stationary object, you may have caused property damage, so do not leave the scene. Leaving the scene can result in hit-and-run charges, far worse than penalties for the initial accident.
Once you have moved to a safe area, exit your vehicle and exchange insurance information with the other party. If possible, make sure you are not obstructing traffic. However, this is the time most drivers begin wondering, “Do I need to report this accident to the police?” If it is a minor accident, the answer may be no.
California state law requires drivers to report an accident causing injury or death to any person. The drivers must file a written report with either the California State Patrol or local police within 24 hours, though police called on-scene will provide their own report. If you desire police to be present on-scene, you may dial either 911 or the local non-emergency number.
In the case of accidents not causing injury or death, you do not need to notify the police. However, many insurance companies promote doing so anyway. If the other driver is uncooperative or you suspect they are not insured, police presence can help ensure you walk away with the other driver’s information so you can adequately pursue your claim.
Another instance that may prompt you to call police after a minor car accident is a dispute about fault. Even if the other driver is cooperative with insurance paperwork, disputes regarding fault can easily get out of hand or become murky once insurance companies get involved. A police report should ensure the fairest depiction of both parties.
Even if you do not have injuries at the scene, and do not believe any of the others involved suffered injuries, you may want to notify police. Keep in mind that you must call the police if any injuries are present. Injuries are not always immediately evident and calling police can save you time waiting around for them later once injuries become apparent.
You may need to report the accident to the DMV. California state law requires drivers to report an accident to the DMV within ten days if:
In addition, call your insurer as soon as possible. California does not have laws requiring insurance notification, but you may need to file a claim for personal injuries or property damage. Many companies state a variable “reasonable amount of time” for reporting the accident, so waiting too long may cause you to miss out on compensation for damages incurred.
Finally, you may want to call a car accident attorney. If the other party is uncooperative, wants to blame you for the accident, or if any injuries are present, an attorney can help you navigate complicated insurance settlements. Notifying an attorney may be one of the best calls you can make after a car accident.