The scene of a car accident is hectic, and it is often hard to think clearly in the aftermath of a crash. That’s why it’s a good idea to know what you are required to do ahead of time. Specifically, you should understand what your legal obligations are and when to get the police involved.
Below, we’ve included some helpful information on reporting requirements. If you were seriously injured or someone else immediately requires medical attention, that will be the top priority. The following information would apply when it becomes possible to attend to reporting requirements.
Does California law require police to be notified of a crash?
California law mandates that you must report a car accident to law enforcement (police or California Highway Patrol) within 24 hours if that accident resulted in injury or death. The victims suffering injury or death could be one of the drivers, a pedestrian or bicyclist. If an ambulance was called to the scene, there will almost certainly be police on hand as well, so a report will be generated automatically.
Even if there were no injuries/deaths (or you aren’t sure that anyone was injured), it is usually a good idea to call the police after a traffic accident. It can be very helpful to have an officer on the scene to create an official record and to oversee your exchange of information with the other driver. Your insurance company will likely want to see a police report when you file a claim, and your policy may even require it. Therefore, calling the police after a crash is typically the right choice.
Additional reporting requirements
In addition to any other reports you might make (to police or insurance), California law requires that you report your car accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days of the crash if the crash resulted in injury, death or more than $1,000 in property damage. The form to use is known as an SR 1 form, and you can find them at any DMV office or online. You can even keep a blank form in your glove compartment in case you ever get into an accident.
When you report the crash to your insurer, the company may offer to file this form on your behalf. But please ask if you are unsure, because failing to file within the required timeline could result in license suspension.
Do I Need To Hire An Attorney After A Car Accident?
Consulting with a personal injury attorney will give you a better sense of your legal options if another party was at fault for the accident or your injuries. If you hire an attorney immediately, they can help you file out the SR 1 report properly, communicate directly with your insurance company for you and generally ensure that you don’t miss any important details or requirements. After that, they can help you seek the compensation to cover your medical bills, lost wages, property damage and other costs.