Some Frequently Asked Questions: Car Accident Reports in California

Car Accident Legal Advice

When should you report a car accident?

It’s always a good idea to call the police immediately after a car accident so that there’s a professional on the scene to facilitate the exchange of information and make an official report of the incident with both parties on the record, if possible. Even if you don’t think you’ve been injured, and even if it looks as if there’s no damage to your car, you never know what after effects will surface later on.


Do I have to report a car accident?

In California, drivers involved in car accidents resulting in any injury or death – to a driver or pedestrian – are required by law to contact the police or highway patrol and make a written report within 24 hours of the incident.

In cases of accidents that happen in California involving injury, death or property damage exceeding $1,000, drivers must also report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days.


How long do I have to report a car accident?

If an accident results in injury or death, you have 24 hours to file a written report with authorities and 10 days to report it to the DMV.

Your time frame for reporting the accident to your insurance company depends on your specific contract, but it’s a good idea to report an accident as quickly as possible so a proper claim can be prepared.

California has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims and a three-year statute of limitations for property damage following car accidents.


Where do I file a car accident report?

Report your accident to the local police department in the city your accident occurred or the California Highway Patrol. The DMV has an online report form (called SR 1) you can download from their website. You can also call your insurance company directly and speak to an agent on the phone to report an accident.


How do I report a car accident?

You can report a car accident in person, over the phone or, in some cases, online. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has a Traffic Accident Report (SR 1) form available for download from its website.


Is it illegal to not report an accident?

In some cases, yes. If you are involved in a car accident, no matter who was at fault, and the accident results in injury or death, you are required by California law to report the accident within 24 hours. The Department of Motor Vehicles requires that a report be filed within 10 days, if the accident involved injury, death or more than $1,000 in property damage.


What happens if you don’t report a car accident?

The best-case scenario is, you won’t be able to recoup any damages for dents and scratches to your car or injuries you discover after the fact. The worst-case scenario is, you could lose your driving privileges, be forced to pay a fine, or even land in jail. That’s why it’s always a good idea to file a formal report as soon as possible after a car accident.

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