What the Law Requires of you after a Collision in California

The law of the state where the accident happened determines what reports must be made after a motor vehicle accident.  Typically, reports should be filed with police, your insurance company, and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  In California, one may report an auto accident to the Highway Patrol (CHP).  In addition, all drivers involved in auto accidents in California are required by statute to file reports with the CHP or local police department under Vehicle Code § 20008.

Police or other law enforcement – If the accident causes a personal injury or when property damage exceeds a certain dollar amount, such as $750, you are required to report the accident to police.  Officers may take reports over the phone, but sometimes you have to make those reports in person at the police station.  However, it is always best to have an officer come out to the scene.

Insurance company – Most companies require their policyholders to promptly report a car accident.  The time frame can be extremely short and failure to notify the insurance company within that time frame may result in a denial of coverage.  Check your insurance policy to see what notice requirements apply to you.  The insurance company will want all of the basic information to help its investigation – and sometimes may want a recorded statement.  However, it may be prudent to contact a lawyer before giving a recorded statement (especially if you believe that the insurance company is recording the information) in order to deny your claim.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – State DMV offices usually keep accident reports on file.  For example, California requires every driver involved in an accident causing personal injury or property damage in excess of $750 to file an SR-1 form.  Typically, a DMV report must be filed within five or ten days of the accident.  If you fail to report to the DMV, your driver’s license could be taken away, regardless of fault.  If you or someone else was injured in the accident, it may help to consult a lawyer before filing the DMV report.

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Albert Gustav Stoll, Jr.

Licensed since 1993

Member at firm Albert G. Stoll, Jr. | A Law Corporation

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