What Happens if I Do Not Report a Car Accident in California?

Depending on the situation, you could lose your driving privileges for failing to report a car accident in California. In some circumstances, you could be charged with hit-and-run, which could result in criminal charges. 

For most situations other than a minor fender bender with no property damage, you need to report a car accident to the police immediately. Doing so will also likely benefit you if you are eligible to file any legal claims for compensation against the at-fault driver.

When Am I Required To Report a Car Accident in California?

California Vehicle Code §16000 requires you to report a car accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days of the accident if any of the following criteria apply:

  • There was more than $1,000 in property damage;
  • Someone injured in the accident; or,
  • Someone was killed in the accident. 

If you fail to file the report with the DMV within ten days, the DMV could suspend your driver’s license for up to one year.

In addition to reporting the car accident to the DMV, you must also report car accidents to the California Highway Patrol or the city where the accident occurred. California Vehicle Code §20008 requires you to report the accident within 24 hours. 

Drivers should also be aware of California Vehicle Code §2002, instructing drivers to report accidents involving property damage. The law requires drivers to stop and locate the owner of the property. If the owner cannot be located, the driver should leave a written notice providing the owner with their name and contact information.

Failing to comply with the law could be considered a hit-and-run accident. The statute states that a violation of the section is a misdemeanor. Therefore, failing to report a car accident in some situations could lead to criminal charges and jail.

How Do I Report a Car Accident in California?

How Do I Report a Car Accident in California?

The easiest and quickest way to comply with the law is to call 911 after an accident. The 911 dispatcher gathers information and sends the correct law enforcement agency to the accident scene. 

Even minor car accidents can result in more than $1,000 in property damages and physical injuries. Therefore, erring on the side of caution and reporting the crash as required by law protects you. Don’t forget to file the DMV car crash report within ten days, even if the police investigate and file a car accident report.

Calling 911 to report the crash also protects you regarding any personal injury claims you may have. The other driver might agree at the accident scene that the crash was their fault. You exchange information and leave. 

However, the other driver files a DMV accident report and blames the collision on you. In that case, you are forced to defend yourself so that you are not liable for damages. Furthermore, since the other driver is blaming you, it could make it much more difficult to file a claim and collect compensation for your damages.

Car Accident Reports Provide Important Details for a San Diego Car Accident Claim 

Serious car crashes require more intensive accident investigations by the police department. When law enforcement agencies investigate the car crash, the officers might take photographs and sketch the accident scene. They also talk with eyewitnesses and note the information in the report.

Law enforcement officers could collect evidence and determine the primary cause of the accident. All the information is detailed in the crash report. Your attorney can use this information to begin their investigation into the cause of the car crash. 

If the insurance company denies your claim or refuses to pay a fair settlement amount, your attorney may file a personal injury lawsuit. However, most car accident claims resolve before lawsuits are filed through settlement negotiations. Having an accident report and other evidence proving the other driver caused the crash can help settle the case without needing to file a lawsuit. 

If you file a personal injury lawsuit, you have the burden of proving that the other driver caused your injury. The evidence must convince the jury there is a greater than 50% chance the facts as you present them are true. The elements of a car accident claim include:

  • You were owed a duty of care by the driver who hit your car
  • The driver’s conduct constituted a breach of duty 
  • The breach of duty was the cause of the car accident
  • You suffered injuries and damages because of the car accident 

Your lawyers use the evidence in the case to prepare a case proving causation and fault. The starting point for the entire case was the information law enforcement officers included in the car accident report.

Steps To Take After a San Diego Car Accident

In addition to calling 911 to report the car accident, there are other steps you can take to protect your rights after a car accident. Those steps include:

  • Do not discuss the crash with anyone at the accident scene except law enforcement officers.
  • Never admit fault for causing the crash or contributing to the cause of the crash. The aftermath of an accident can be overwhelming, and injuries can cause confusion. Wait until your lawyer completes an investigation to determine fault.
  • If it is safe to do so and your injuries permit, take photographs of the accident scene. You should also make a video. If your injuries do not permit movement, using your phone to zoom in on areas while making a video can be helpful.
  • Seek immediate medical care after a car accident. Delays in medical care could cause minor injuries to worsen. Failure to seek prompt medical treatment could also hurt your personal injury case.

As soon as possible, talk with a San Deigo car accident lawyer. An attorney can review your case during a free consultation. 

Car accident lawyers help victims recover fair compensation for their injuries and damages. You could be entitled to economic damages for your financial losses. You may also receive non-economic damages for pain and suffering

The key takeaways to remember: Call 911 to report car accidents immediately after the crash, and seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers

Were you injured in a car accident? If so, we want to help. Call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers at (619) 777-5555 to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced San Diego car accident attorneys.