How to Obtain a California Accident Report

If you get into a car accident in California, one of the most important things to obtain is an accident report. The police accident report – also called a traffic collision report – will contain important facts about your crash. Once you obtain a copy of your California accident report, you can use it to strengthen your insurance claim or a car accident lawsuit.

How to Get a California Accident Report

According to California law, all drivers involved in car accidents that cause injuries, deaths or property damage of at least $1,000 must report the car accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days. According to California Vehicle Code Section 20008, drivers also have to submit a written report to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or the police department within 24 hours if the crash caused injuries or deaths.

You can file your DMV and CHP reports in one of two ways. First, you can call the police from the scene of your accident. The police will draw up an accident report on site and submit it to the DMV and CHP for you. Second, you can submit the report to the office yourself. If you do it yourself, you will have to fill out the appropriate forms and mail them to the correct offices by the deadline.

It is generally in your best interest to call 911 after any car accident, even a minor one. Calling the police right away can create an official record of the crash, with citations against the other driver, if applicable. You can give the officer your side of the story for the record. The police officer can also help you investigate the crash, such as by capturing official photographs and taking eyewitness statements.

All police officers that create California accident reports must submit them to the DMV within 10 days. If you did not call the police, it becomes your responsibility to submit a Report of Traffic Accident Form to the DMV within 10 days yourself. A few days after you or the police submit your report, a copy of it should become available to you and others involved in the crash.

Requesting a Copy of a California Accident Report

When it comes time to request a copy of your California accident report for the insurance claims process or a personal injury lawsuit, contact a car accident lawyer for assistance. An attorney can contact the police department or Department of Motor Vehicles on your behalf to collect a copy of the accident report. Otherwise, you can contact the office yourself to request a copy of your report in two different ways:

  1. By mail. Print and fill out an Application for Release of Information. Then, mail it to the office that received your report – usually in the county where the accident took place – along with your payment. This is usually around $10.
  2. In person. You can also print and fill out the same form and submit it in person by visiting the California Highway Patrol office. The CHP’s website has a search tool where you can find the correct office’s address. If you do not know where to submit your form, call (916) 843-3000 (the CHP headquarters) for assistance.

Once you have a copy of your California accident report, you can use it to support your car insurance claim or an injury lawsuit against the other driver. A car accident attorney can help you use the copy of your report as evidence. An attorney can also help you gather other types of evidence, such as copies of your medical bills and the other driver’s insurance policy.

For more information about what to do after a car accident or how to obtain copies of official reports, contact a lawyer near you.