Do You Have to Report a Car Accident in California?

Getting into a car accident can be a scary and frustrating experience. When a serious accident occurs, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel will likely be dispatched to the scene, and an accident report will be filed. However, not all accidents are serious, and many California drivers wonder what reporting requirements are for less severe incidents. Every driver in California needs to understand that nearly all car accidents must be reported.

California Accident Report

What Does California Law Say About Reporting an Accident?

Under California Vehicle Code § 16000, we can see that drivers involved in an accident that fit any of the following criteria are required to report the incident to the DMV within 10 days or risk having their license suspended or revoked:

  • There were any injuries involved, regardless of how minor
  • There were any fatalities
  • There was any property damage exceeding $1,000

Under these guidelines, it is clear that nearly every accident will end up being reported. The $1,000 property damage requirement is not a high bar and is generally met with just about any type of damage to a vehicle.

What Information Do You Need to Report the Accident?

To report an accident to the DMV, the driver involved (or their insurance carrier or legal representative) will need to fill out the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (Form SR-1). According to the DMV, the following information will be needed to complete this form:

  • Place and time the accident occurred
  • Any other driver’s name, address, and date of birth.
  • Any other driver’s driver license information (number and state)
  • Any other driver’s license plate number and state
  • Any other driver’s insurance company, policy number, and the expiration
  • Policyholder’s name and address (often different from the driver)
  • Vehicle owner’s name and address (often different from the driver)
  • Explanation of injuries or property damage

Why Would Anyone Not Want to Report an Accident?

There are various reasons why a person may not want to report an accident. This is often due to the parties involved thinking that the crash was minor and that there are no injuries or substantial property damage. However, there is no way to determine the full extent of an accident in the immediate aftermath of a crash. One or more parties involved may have delayed injuries, or there could be underlying property damage that cannot be seen. Failing to report an accident in these situations could result in various parties is not being able to secure compensation for injuries or property damage.

It is sometimes the case that a driver does not want to report the accident because they do not have insurance coverage. Please understand that failure to report an accident could result in serious penalties. If you are struck by an uninsured motorist, you still need to report the crash and if you are injured, you should still speak with a car accident lawyer in Irvine.

What Are the California Auto Insurance Requirements?

Every state sets minimum auto insurance requirements for drivers. In California, the law states that all drivers must carry the following insurance to remain legal on the roadway:

  • $15,000 for the death or injury of a single person in a crash
  • $30,000 for the death or injury of more than one person in a crash
  • $5,000 for property damage

While uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is not required, it is recommended that all drivers carry this additional coverage to remain protected in the event they are struck by an uninsured driver or a driver with minimum policy coverage limits.