How to Report a Car Accident in California
There’s a high amount of chaos in the immediate aftermath of a car accident, but your life can also be hectic in the days that follow.
After seeking proper medical treatment, you’ll still deal with the emotional trauma and could be out of work while you recover from your injuries.
However, there is an important task that you’ll need to address, which involves your legal obligations regarding the accident report.
Not only is it the law, but filing the necessary documents is critical to protect your rights in an auto crash claim.
You may face considerable challenges in obtaining compensation for a car accident with no police report in California, so it’s important to get legal help with the process.
A California car accident lawyer can assist with your claim, but you may also find it useful to review some answers to frequently asked questions about accident reports.
When am I required to report a car accident by law?
The California law on reporting car accidents states that there are three situations where you must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) about a crash:
- If there was property damage in excess of $1,000, which was increased from $750 for incidents before January 1, 2017;
- Someone suffered any type of injuries, ranging from life-threatening to severe; OR,
- A person was killed in the collision.
You should note that it’s not necessary to file an accident report with the California DMV if law enforcement arrived at the scene of the incident. Officers will prepare a police report, so the duty to notify doesn’t apply.
How do I file a report after a car accident in California?
Reporting a car accident to the DMV is relatively simple. You need to fill out a form called the “Report of a Traffic Accident Occurring in California.” This Form SR-1 is available for download online, or you can obtain one from your local sheriff’s office or municipal authorities.
However, even though the form itself isn’t difficult, undertaking this task can be tough if you’re still recovering from your injuries. Your car accident lawyer can take care of the details.
What are the time limitations on filing an accident report?
There are restrictions on how long you have to report an accident in California, and they apply regardless of how badly you were hurt. You must submit the proper documents within 10 days after the incident, or your driver’s license could be suspended.
Even if the other driver promises to file the SR-1, follow through by filling out the paperwork – just in case that person fails to do so.
Should I contact the insurance company?
While there’s no law on the matter, you should notify your own insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. Plus, you need to file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurer if you were injured and intend to seek compensation for your losses.
It’s important to use caution when talking to an insurance company and rely on your attorney to handle most of the process. Beyond the basics – such as the time, date, and location of the collision – don’t make any other statements to a claims adjuster.
These employees are trained on strategies to deny your claim or justify a low-ball counteroffer. If you reveal too much about the accident, you could put your claim at risk. The claims adjuster may try to blame the incident on you or dispute the severity of your injuries.
What are the next steps after an auto crash?
Once you file the necessary forms, your first task should be consulting with a lawyer regarding a motor vehicle collision. Your attorney can handle the process of filing a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company and will negotiate on your behalf. Legal professionals know the tricks insurers use to try and avoid paying your claim, so you can feel confident knowing your matter is in good hands.
Plus, you’ll need an experienced attorney on your side if the insurer refuses to settle your claim for a reasonable amount. At this point, you may need to initiate litigation in civil court. Lawsuits are extremely complicated, and you’re at a disadvantage unless you have a lawyer at your side to protect your rights.
Contact a California Car Accident Attorney for Assistance with Police Reports
It’s possible to recover compensation after a car accident with no police report in California, but it’s important to retain legal representation to overcome the legal hurdles.
For more information about getting an accident report, filing a claim, and other aspects of the process, please contact Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law. We can schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can tackle the challenges, allowing you the time you need to recover from your injuries.