Car accidents happen daily throughout California for many reasons, and all drivers should know their rights and responsibilities in these harrowing situations. If you believe another party is responsible for causing the crash, your first steps after the accident will significantly impact subsequent recovery efforts. While you may be concerned about your injuries and your personal health and safety should be your primary concerns after an accident, you must not forget your responsibilities regarding reporting your accident.
If you are seriously injured in a car accident, you may be unable to notify the police and may spend several days in intensive care before you are fully responsive. Someone else likely contacted the authorities in this situation, so the reporting requirement has been fulfilled. If you experienced a minor car accident in California, state law requires you to report the accident to the California Highway Patrol or the nearest police station within 24 hours if the accident resulted in substantial property damage, injuries, or death.
Why Reporting Accidents Is Crucial in California
State law requires drivers to report accidents under the state’s fault-based system for resolving car accident claims. Whoever causes an accident absorbs liability for the resulting damages. All drivers must carry auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements. An insurance company wants to verify that it is responsible for a claim before paying a settlement. Timely reporting is not only essential for determining liability but also for preventing criminal charges.
Leaving the scene of an accident when you are legally required to report it constitutes a hit-and-run offense in California. If you have any doubt about whether you legally need to report an accident, it is always best to report it. This will negate the chance of you facing a hit-and-run charge and creates a formal police report of the crash that you may need later for an auto insurance claim and/or personal injury suit. In addition, reporting an accident when required establishes that you fulfilled your duty of care in the situation and met all applicable legal requirements after your accident.
State law dictates that drivers must notify the authorities of most car accidents, but drivers also have reporting requirements with their insurance carriers, too. Be sure you know your obligations under the terms of your auto insurance policy and report an accident promptly. You must also notify the at-fault driver’s insurance company that you intend to file a claim as soon as you consult an attorney. Typically, insurance companies require reports within 24 hours of an accident, so it is best to file these reports as soon as possible.
Potential Consequences for Failing to Report an Accident
Failing to report an accident as required by California state law can lead to penalties for hit-and-run. When a driver neglects to report a car accident to the police when required by law, they can face up to one year in county jail and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000. Additionally, if the driver failed to report an accident resulting in death or serious injury, their penalty could increase to two to four years in prison or 90 days to one year in county jail, along with a fine between $1,000 and $10,000. It’s also possible to face an administrative suspension of your driver’s license from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
FAQs About Reporting A Car Accident in California
How Long Do I Have to Report a Car Accident to the Police in California?
State law requires drivers to report accidents resulting in significant property damage, injury, or death. If an accident results in severe or fatal injuries, it should be reported immediately. The absolute deadline to file a police report for a car accident is 24 hours from the time of the crash. Therefore, it is always best to call 911 to report an accident immediately after it happens.
How Do I Know If I Need to File a Police Report for My Accident?
State law demands drivers report vehicle accidents that result in deaths, injuries, or significant property damage. However, if you have an accident that only results in property damage, you might wonder whether you need to report it. While you might resolve your accident with an insurance claim, filing a police report may still be required and in your best interest. Err on the side of caution and report the accident if you’re unsure; this way, there will be a formal police report should you need it later, and you will also avoid penalties for failing to report the accident.
How Long Do I Have to Report a Car Accident to an Insurance Company?
You must report any car accident you have to your own insurance carrier per the terms of your individual policy. Even if you did not cause the accident, your insurer likely expects notification of the incident so they can note it on your policy. You must also report the accident to the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier if you intend to file a claim against their policy. While you may not need to file your claim immediately, you should contact their insurer right away to notify them of your intent to file a claim after you consult legal counsel.
Is It Worth Hiring an Attorney for a Minor Car Accident in California?
Thousands of motor vehicle accidents occur throughout California every year, and many drivers can resolve these incidents without the need for complex civil court proceedings. However, any accident resulting in injuries requires the attention of an experienced attorney. If you want to be sure that you maximize the compensation you receive from your recovery efforts, hiring legal counsel you can trust is the best way to accomplish this.
The team at Chris and Frank Accident Attorneys understands the aftermath of any car accident can be frustrating and stressful. However, if another driver caused your recent accident, we could help you hold them responsible for your damages with an auto insurance claim, a personal injury suit, or both. Contact us today to find out more about the legal services we offer and how we can assist with your car accident claim.