Is it Always Necessary to Report a Car Accident in California?

If you experience a car accident in California that appears to be a minor fender-bender, you may feel it is unnecessary to report a car accident to police or insurance. However, you might be required by law to file a car accident report in certain situations. 

If you suffered injuries or property damage because of a car accident and the accident was not reported, contact a California car accident lawyer. Let Eric Ratinoff Law Corp. take the uncertainty out of the legal process and hold the person at fault for the car accident accountable for their actions.

Are You Legally Required to Report a Car Accident in California?

Not every car accident must be reported to the police, but it’s usually beneficial to do so. While laws vary depending on the state, accidents involving damage to people or property typically need to be reported. In California, you are required to report an accident when the following factors occur:

  • Injury or death. If someone is killed or hurt because of the accident, you must file a police report within 24 hours of the accident.
  • Property damage valued at over $750. You must report a motor vehicle accident when property damage exceeds $750. People who are involved in an accident don’t know the value of damaged property. Even a minor dent or scrape can cost more than $750 for a body shop to repair. You should report all accidents with property damage to the police.

You are also required to report an accident to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office within ten days if:

  • Anyone involved in the accident suffered injuries, including minor injuries
  • Someone died because of the car accident
  • The accident led to property damage that totals more than $750

You should still be able to file a police report and file a California car accident claim for damages and injuries. If you have questions, contact a trusted car accident lawyer in Sacramento.

What Can Happen if You Don’t Report a Car Accident?

By not reporting a car accident to the authorities and your insurance company, you are putting your trust in the other driver, who is most likely a total stranger. You assume that the car accident is a minor incident, when it could easily turn into an injury claim or lawsuit. Even worse, you could open yourself to criminal charges.

  • The other driver could claim you left the scene of an accident

Under California law, running from the scene of an accident is a criminal offense. A driver must stop whenever there is an accident, even if he is not at fault or there is no damage or injuries. 

A hit-and-run driver can be charged with a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code Section 20002 if the accident only involved property damage. However, if the hit-and-run involves injury or death, the charge becomes a felony that can carry a mandatory jail sentence of up to four years and a fine of up to $10,000.

  • The other driver could make an insurance claim and lie about who is at fault. People involved in a car accident often have a different version of events and who was to blame for a crash. In these cases, it’s essential to report the accident to the police and get their report of the accident. A police report will help in negotiations with insurance companies.
  • You may later discover you are injured and that the driver who hit you is not insured. If the driver that hit you is not insured, you may face further complications in dealing with an insurance company. You should contact the police in these situations. A police officer can verify that a driver was uninsured. The report will help you file a claim for an uninsured or underinsured insurance policy with your own insurance company.

Don’t let this happen to you! Always report a car accident to California police. If you were already in an accident that you didn’t report, contact a trusted car accident lawyer that can advise you on what to do next.

What are the Benefits of Reporting a Car Accident?

Even when a car accident seems minor, calling and reporting the accident to the police is still a good idea. There could be damage to your or the other driver’s vehicle that becomes apparent later. Some injuries are not evident at the time of an accident.

The police report is essential documentation of what happened in a car accident.

The report provides a link between the accident and vehicle damages, injuries to you, and injuries to others involved in the accident. Most police accident reports include the identification, insurance information, and licensing of all drivers involved in the accident. This report may also include statements made by the drivers and witnesses to the accident and a description of the scene and the road conditions. There should also be contact information for any witnesses in case they need to make formal statements at some point.

Without the police report as evidence, liability becomes a matter of “he said, she said,” and the insurance companies are left to decide liability. Without a police report, the other driver and your insurance company may refuse to pay for car repairs or medical expenses. 

Even when the law does not require reporting the accident, you should consider protecting your right to claim compensation for your injuries and property damage and avoid getting blamed for the accident. If you were recently a victim in a car accident, contact a Sacrament car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

If you were hurt in an unreported car accident, Eric Ratinoff Law may still be able to help you claim the compensation for injuries that you deserve. We’ve been helping car accident victims recover what they need for more than 25 years, and our Sacramento car accident lawyer is always on the side of injury victims.

Speak to a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

Eric Ratinoff Law Corp. can give you legal advice during a free consultation. We can tell you if your case has merit and guide you through the accident claim process. We will ensure that you are not taken advantage of by insurance companies. If negligence is involved, we can help you hold the other driver accountable.

Eric Ratinoff Law Corp. has over 25 years of legal experience and a reputation for outstanding results. He is an award-winning lawyer listed in both the Northern California Super Lawyers and the National Trial Lawyers as a Top 100 Lawyer.  We work based on a contingency fee basis, which means you won’t pay unless we win.  

Call us at (916) 970-9100 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation or contact us today.