When Should You Report a Car Accident in California?

by Staff Blogger | September 14th, 2020

After a crash, the last thing most people want to do is call the police and wait until they arrive on the scene to file a report. But it’s important to know when you’re required to report a car accident in California.

In certain circumstances, a failure to do so won’t just make it harder to establish fault if you decide to file a compensation claim; it could even result in criminal charges.

So, when is it necessary to report a crash? Here’s what you need to know.

It’s a Requirement to Report a Vehicle Crash in California If…

  • Property damage exceeds $1000.
  • Someone was injured in the crash.
  • Someone was killed in the crash.

If you suspect one of the drivers involved in the crash is driving without insurance or while impaired by drugs or alcohol, it’s also best to call the police immediately.

You are required to report a crash that meets the above requirements within 10 days of its occurrence, though reporting it immediately makes life easier if you decide to file a compensation claim.

Making the Case for Always Reporting a Crash

Now that we know California’s laws about reporting a car accident, let’s go a step further. From the perspective a vehicle accident attorney, it’s best practice to always report a crash.

First, though it’s possible to file an insurance claim without a police report, proving that you weren’t at fault for the crash is far more difficult without that report. Fault matters when it comes to insurance claims, and you’ll want to be sure to have a police report that reflects the other driver’s role in causing the accident.

Second, it’s incredibly difficult for someone involved in a crash to know the monetary value of damage their vehicle has sustained. A small “ding” could be just the beginning of the damage to the vehicle. Assume that any damage will be more costly to repair than it initially appears.

Third, just like it’s hard to know how much damage a vehicle has sustained, it’s equally if not more difficult to know how injured a person is after an accident. Crash-related injuries are often far worse than they initially appear; the injured person usually has enough adrenaline pumping through their body from the shock of the crash to mask symptoms. If there’s the slightest indication that you’ve been hurt, report the accident and seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

What Happens If You Don’t Report a Crash in California?

By failing to report a car accident that involves significant property damage, you could have your license suspended by the DMV. If you were involved in a crash where someone else was seriously injured and you leave the scene before police arrive, you could face criminal charges, including imprisonment of up to 3 years, and up $10,000 in fines for a felony hit-and-run.

Don’t Take the Chance—Report the Crash

When you don’t report an accident in California, you accept unnecessary risks. What if someone is more injured than they appear at the scene of the crash? What if the amount of property damage is far greater than it seems right after the accident?

There are too many factors at play to know when it’s okay not to report the crash. So, we suggest playing it safe and calling the authorities as soon as the accident happens.

If You Need Help, Contact Berg Injury Lawyers

The California car accident attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers have years of experience handling vehicle crash claims involving serious injuries. If you need help, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.