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Reporting California Car Accidents

Woman WorriedIn California, drivers involved in specific types of car accidents must report the collision to a local law enforcement agency. Failure to file a report can make it much more difficult for an injured party to recover compensation for the harm he or she suffered.

Reporting a Collision 

Drivers are required to report a car accident to local law enforcement officers in the city where the collision occurred if the accident results in: 

  • The injury or death of another person; or
  • Damage to either party’s property.

Some car accidents are so serious that the driver’s injuries prevent him or her from reporting the accident. In this case, any occupant is permitted to make the report or to arrange to have a third party file it.

If a person was injured, or the accident caused damage totaling $750 or more, the driver must also submit a report to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of the accident. The driver must provide the following information in the DMV’s report:

  • His or her insurance company name and policy number;
  • The date and time of the accident; and
  • The location of the crash.

The California Highway Patrol is also permitted to require drivers who filed reports detailing their involvement in a vehicle crash to file supplemental reports. The additional reports may include witness statements if the original report is found to be insufficient.

Additional Information

If an accident only causes property damage, the driver of any car that was involved in the collision must, in addition to reporting the crash:

  • Locate and provide the other driver or owner of the property with his or her name and address;
  • Upon request, present his or her driver’s license and vehicle registration to the other driver or property owner; or
  • Leave, in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other damaged property, a written notice providing his or her name and address and a statement describing the accident.
Time Limits and Penalties

The law also requires that drivers report accidents without unnecessary delay, which is usually understood to mean within 24 hours. Once this initial oral report is made, the driver must also provide a written report to either the municipal police department or California Highway Patrol that describes how and when the accident occurred.

The penalties for failing to report a car accident depend on the severity of the accident, but could include criminal charges, fines, and even imprisonment.

If you have been injured in a car crash, it is important to file a report with a local law enforcement agency, as it will help ensure the speedy resolution of the question of fault and insurance coverage. An experienced attorney may be able to help you obtain compensation for the harm you suffered, so if you have been in a car accident, please contact the dedicated San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free consultation.

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