Do You Have to Report a Car Accident in California?

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When you get into a car accident in California, you must report the crash to law enforcement under certain circumstances. Reporting a car accident is the first step to collecting compensatory damages for your losses in the situation, such as medical expenses and property damage. Following the reporting rules could have a major impact on your case.

When You Need to Report a Car Accident in California

In many situations, you must report the car accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days of the incident. The car accident must fall under one of the following criteria in order to qualify for this requirement:

  • The car accident led to property damage greater than $1,000.
  • The car accident led to any injury, no matter how minor the injury may be.
  • The car accident led to death.

Your car accident does not need to fall under one of these requirements in order for you to report, but you have a legal obligation to report if it does. If you do not report the accident within 10 days, you may lose your license or have your license suspended.

You do not have to report the accident if the vehicle involved was a government vehicle, including the United States, California, another state, or a municipal agency. In addition, California follows a one-year statute of limitations for reporting a car accident. If no one involved in the accident reports to the DMV within one year, the DMV does not need to file a report and the license suspension requirements do not apply.

How Do You File a Car Accident Report in California?

To file a car accident report with the California DMV, you or your car accident attorney must complete Form SR-1: Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California. To complete Form SR-1, you must supply the following information:

  • The location, time, and date of the accident
  • The other driver’s personal information, including name, address, and date of birth
  • The license information of the other driver, including the license number and state
  • The insurance information of the other driver, including the company, policy number, and expiration date
  • The other driver’s vehicle information, including plate number and state
  • The name and address of all the insurance policyholders, including yourself
  • The name and address of all the vehicle owners involved in the accident, including yourself
  • A detailed explanation of your damages, such as your injuries and any property damage
  • The name and address of all people seeking damages for personal injury as a result of the accident, including yourself and any passengers

What to Do After a Car Accident in California

The moments after a car accident are crucial for filing Form SR-1, insurance claims, and lawsuits. If you suffer serious injuries in your accident and cannot move, have someone call 911 as soon as possible. If you can move safely after a car accident, collect the following details to aid in your report:

  • Call 911 and speak to a police officer. Collect the officer’s information before they leave so that you can receive the report later.
  • Seek medical attention and receive a medical report.
  • Collect the other driver’s information, including contact, insurance, and license information.
  • Take photos of the scene. Make sure to take photos of each car, plate numbers, your injuries, and the area around the accident, including any traffic signs.
  • Speak to witnesses. Ask for their contact information to speak about the accident later.
  • Do not admit fault or downplay your injuries. Doing so could hurt your claim in the future. You may not know the severity of your injuries or the true cause of the accident until later.

If you need assistance filing an insurance claim, completing your Form SR-1, or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, visit a Long Beach car accident attorney immediately. He or she will be able to complete your form without any errors or unnecessary delays.