How To Report A Car Accident in California - What To Do After A Car Accident?

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Everything You Need to Know About Reporting a Car Accident in California

Everything You Need to Know About Reporting a Car Accident in California

Aug 2, 2020

In California, drivers involved in various types of car accidents – from minor fender benders and rear-end collisions to major rollover crashes – may have an obligation to report the incidents. Vehicle Code section 20008 mandates that the driver of any vehicle (or a representative of that driver) involved in an accident where an injury or death occurred must make a written report of the crash to the California Highway Patrol, or to the police department of the city where the accident occurred within 24 hours. The obligation to report the accident applies regardless of whether the individual impacted by the injury or fatality was the driver, passenger, or a pedestrian. If the agency that receives your report is not responsible for conducting an investigation of the accident, the report will eventually be forwarded to a proper investigating authority.

If your car accident leads to a law enforcement officer arriving on the scene, he or she will handle the responsibility of preparing and filing the accident report (whether the local police department, sheriff department, etc.). In such a situation, you would not be required to complete a separate accident report.

Despite the law being clear regarding the need to report any car accident involving an injury, some people still choose to not report collisions if the injury is minor (typically in instances where the physical damage to the vehicle is also insignificant). Not reporting a minor accident involving a minor injury may seem like a sensible course of action initially.

Nobody wants to see their insurance rates increase, and we all have more important things to do than spend time filing unnecessary paperwork. However, failing to report a car accident involving an injury in California can have considerable consequences that aren’t immediately foreseeable. The severity of an injury isn’t always immediately apparent, and can worsen over time. Filing an official report after your car accident involving an injury is not only the correct course of action under the law, it also provides you with the documentation you need for legal recourse in the event of any progressing issues related to injuries or damages (just like physical injuries, a minor amount of damage to your vehicle or property can eventually develop into something more serious requiring costly repairs).

Contact our top-rated team of expert auto accident attorneys online or by phone today to pursue justice and secure a financial award for damages.

In such cases, it’s always advisable to have top-rated and experienced legal representation like that provided by Dordulian Law Group on your side. The experienced car accident lawyers at Dordulian Law Group will fight for you to ensure you receive the maximum compensation available under California law for any injuries or damages related to your incident.

Car accidents happen every day in Los Angeles. Whether your incident is major or minor, we’ve put together an overview to help answer any questions you may have regarding what to do after a car accident under California law.

Do I Have to Report a Car Accident to the DMV?

The short answer is, “yes.” According to California law, you must report an accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the majority of situations. These applicable situations include:

  • Accidents resulting in an injury: If anyone was injured in your accident, you must report it to the DMV. Passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and more can all be hurt in automobile accidents. But who (and what, in terms of the degree of severity for a particular injury) is irrelevant. If an injury occurred, it is mandatory that you report the incident.
  • Accidents resulting in a fatality: In the event of a death in an auto accident, you must report the incident to the DMV. A correlating investigation by appropriate authorities will also take place.
  • Accidents resulting in excessive property damage: Property damage can include vehicles, personal possessions, houses, trees, and more. If the amount of damage to any property exceeds $1,000, the accident must be reported to the DMV.

How Much Time Do I have to Report a Car Accident to the DMV?

The short answer is “immediately,” or “as soon as possible.” Technically, the deadline for reporting an accident to the DMV or proper authorities varies according to the specific details related to the incident. If a death occurred, the law states that you only have 24 hours to notify the DMV. Accidents not involving a fatality, but including an injury or excessive property damage, must be reported within 10 days of the incident.

What Happens if I Don’t Report My Car Accident to the DMV?

Individuals who fail to report relevant car accidents to the DMV can face heavy penalties. Depending on the specific circumstances related to your car accident, you could face up to one year in jail, as well as a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, for failing to report the incident. Individuals who flee the scene of an accident could face up to five years in prison. Failing to report a car accident that does not involve an injury (only property damage) could result in no more than six months in jail, and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Do I Have to Report an Accident to the Police?

As we mentioned earlier, police or appropriate authorities may arrive on scene depending on the severity of your car accident. If the police do arrive on the scene of your accident, they will assume the responsibility of filing an accident report. Otherwise, it is your responsibility to complete and file a relevant accident report.

Do I Have to Report a Car Accident to My Insurance Company?

It is not required by law that you report a car accident to your insurance company. However, if you do not report your car accident, you may forfeit your right to receive any financial compensation for damages related to the incident. Simple damages may be covered if you have collision or comprehensive insurance, but your agent would have to be made aware of the particulars related to the accident. Many of us are under the impression that we will face higher insurance premiums if we report an accident, and therefore prefer to pay for small damages out of pocket.

Schedule an appointment online for a free consultation today, or call us directly to speak to our top-rated, expert car accident attorneys.

However, if an injury occurred, you should absolutely report the accident to your insurance agency as quickly as possible. If you were at-fault, you may be investigated, and another party could pursue a lawsuit seeking a settlement from your policy. If the other driver was at-fault, you could be eligible for financial compensation if you experienced an injury in the accident.

What is the Deadline for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit?

The statute of limitations (deadline for filing a lawsuit) for a personal injury claim related to a car accident is two years in the state of California. Assuming you reported your car accident to the proper agencies, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a civil lawsuit in the event of an injury. The statute of limitations is in place so that both parties will have enough time to gather evidence, and so that said evidence is preserved and justice is pursued in a timely fashion.

In certain instances it is possible for the statute of limitations to be extended beyond the standard deadline of two years. Such an example includes a car accident involving an injury to a minor. In this particular case, the two-year statute of limitations would not officially take effect until the individual reached the age of 18 (meaning the injured minor would have until their 20th birthday to file a civil lawsuit in pursuit of financial damages).

Additionally, if an individual was seriously injured in a car accident and left temporarily incapacitated from those injuries, the two-year statute of limitations would be frozen until the victim returned to functional health.

How Do I Get Help After a Car Accident?

If you were injured in a car accident, the team of dedicated and experienced lawyers at Dordulian Law Group is here to help. We offer free legal advice via our no obligation consultation, and can help you report your car accident to the DMV and file a claim to recover financial damages related to your injuries. At DLG, we have a 99% success rate winning car accident cases for injured victims like you. We fight to recover the maximum allowable financial damages under the law for each and every client that chooses the top-rated representation of Dordulian Law Group. We are one of the most experienced and successful car accident law firms in Los Angeles, representing clients throughout California in all types of personal injury cases.

Contact us today to get started – we can help you step-by-step following your car accident to ensure your claim is filed properly and you receive the financial compensation you deserve.

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