When Should I Report a Car Accident to the Police?

As a trusted personal injury law firm in California, The Barnes Firm understands that not everyone is familiar with what they should do after a car accident. From assessing the damage and gathering other driver’s information to filing insurance claims and possibly taking claims to court, the process of post-car accident protocol can seem daunting. We’re here to clear up one facet of who you’ll be communicating with after an accident — law enforcement.

Should All Car Accidents Be Reported?

It might be considered common sense to file an accident report after you’ve been in a major car accident, but what should one do in a minor collision, or even just a fender bender? The truth is, you should report all car accidents, big or small. Doing so can prevent further hassle, monetary complications, and legal repercussions down the line. According to California Vehicle Code section 20008, you must file an accident incident to the police within 24 hours, even if you don’t notify your insurance. While you may have a clear memory of what happened, another party may not perceive the car accident the same way you do. Not following proper protocol can lead to confusion and misinterpretation, such as you failing to stop, which could lead to you incurring legal offenses.

Will Calling the Police Count Against Me?

Plenty of motorists who are unsure if they should call the police after an accident are often hung up on the same bugging concerns — “Will the police be annoyed if I call them out here if the accident was minor? If so, will that inconvenience result in me getting points on my license, paying extra fees, or worse?” While you may be looking for ways to handle this accident swiftly and with as little legal action as possible, you should not be concerned about ‘bothering’ the police. They’re here to protect and serve, after all. The potential adverse outcomes of you not contacting the police heavily outweigh any ease of not filing an accident report. However, if you and the other driver see eye to eye on the severity of the accident, you can also drive to a local police station and file the accident report there.

What Information Will the Police Need?

Even if there are no apparent injuries or property damage that you are aware of, it is in everyone’s best interest to have an officer to come and take a report. If they arrive at the scene, they’ll conduct a brief investigation to try and figure out the cause of the car accident. They will likely collect the following information:

  • Date and time of the accident
  • Personal information from all drivers including name, address, phone number, and insurance details
  • Drivers and witness statements
  • Vehicle information
  • Description and diagram of the accident scene

Investigating officers are also authorized to conduct sobriety tests and issue citations. Be careful you do not accidentally admit fault. Before the police leave, get the name and badge numbers of any officers that responded to the scene. If you gather any additional information, you’ll be able to contact them.

What Happens After I Report an Accident to the Police in California?

Any motorists involved in an accident in California must report the crash to the California DMV within ten days if:

  • Anyone involved in the accident was injured
  • Anyone was killed in the accident, or
  • The crash resulted in property damage (to a vehicle or real property) of more than $750.

Most states do not have laws that dictate if or when a policyholder must report the accident to their auto insurance provider. That said, the sooner the insurance company is aware of the accident, the sooner it can defend the claim.

If you or anyone you know has been involved in an auto accident that resulted in personal injury and seeks legal representation, contact The Barnes Firm today.