Determining if, when, and how to report a car accident in California can be difficult, especially if you’re dealing with the trauma of living through a crash. Whether it’s a small fender bender or a major accident, knowing in advance what to do can help you avoid costly mistakes.
No one expects to get into an accident, which is why so many people are caught unprepared when trouble finds them. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about reporting your accident to the police.
Do You Need to File a Police Report After an Accident in California?
After any kind of traffic accident in California—even if you only suffered minor bumps and scratches—you have certain obligations when it comes to reporting the crash.
According to the California Vehicle Code, the driver of any vehicle involved in a car accident that resulted in injuries must make a written report of the crash to the California Highway Patrol or to the police department of the city where the accident occurred within 24 hours. Alternatively, you could call the police after your accident and they’ll prepare a written report on behalf of the agency. In this situation, you don’t need to make your own separate report.
It’s strongly advised that you call the police after any sort of road accident. Not only can they direct traffic if you aren’t able to move your vehicle, but they can also get statements from the drivers, passengers, and witnesses. Even if you don’t think you’ve been injured or there’s no damage to your car, you never know what aftereffects will surface at a later point. The police report is one of the most critical documents in a car investigation and insurance lawsuit.
If you’ve been in a California vehicle accident that involved injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000, you’ll also need to report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days.
If you fail to report your car accident, you may not be able to recoup any damages for dents and scratches to your car or injuries you discover after the fact. Likewise, you could lose your driving privileges, be forced to pay a fine, or even land yourself in jail. That’s why it’s always a good idea to file a formal report as soon as possible after a car accident.
How Do You Get a Police Report After a Car Accident in California?
There are a number of different methods with which you can get a police report after your accident in California. Here’s what you need to know:
- Call the police to the scene of your accident: The simplest way to get a police report is to call 911 in the moments after your accident. An officer will arrive at the scene of the crash, ask you questions about the accident, and provide both sides with a copy of the report.
- Request a copy from the police: If you don’t manage to get a copy from the officer or if you lose track of it, call your local law enforcement office and they’ll retrieve it for you. Call prepared with your accident identification number and the date, time, and location of the accident so they can find the correct document. Keep in mind that many California cities charge a small fee if you lose your police report. For example, if you live in San Diego, you’ll need to pay $12 to get a copy of your police report.
- Ask your insurance company: It’s possible that your insurance company retrieved a copy of the police report on your behalf. Give them a call to check.
In terms of reporting your accident to your car insurance company, California doesn’t have any laws dictating whether—or when—policyholders who get into a car accident should report the accident to their automobile insurer. However, most car insurance companies require the policyholder to report a car accident to the insurer very soon after the fact. Even if your accident was minor, it’s advised that you report it to the insurance company just to make sure they provide coverage for the accident should you need it.
Contact a California Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a California car accident as a result of another driver’s negligence, consider reaching out to the trusted lawyers at Adamson Ahdoot LLP. With over 100 years of experience, our team is committed to keeping you informed throughout the legal process as you overcome this challenging time in your life. After meeting with you one-on-one, we’ll launch an investigation into the facts of your case and the circumstances that led up to the injury in order to get you the compensation you deserve for any lost wages, medical bills, property damage, and psychological trauma.
No matter the size or complexity of your case, we’ll pour our undivided attention and resources into helping those who have suffered from the negligence of others and deserve justice. We’ll give you peace of mind by handling the details regarding your insurance company, the DMV, auto repairs, medical care, and everything in between. For a free consultation, give us a call at (877) 871-3265 or complete our contact form today.