California Guide To Filing A Police Report After A Car Accident
When a car accident occurs, California law requires you to file an accident report with the police department and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Failing to do so may result in an offense that can carry financial penalties and jail time.
Understanding the steps to file an accident report helps you comply with state law and ensures you have evidence of your accident when negotiating your settlement with the other driver’s insurer.
An experienced car accident lawyer at The Shirvanian Law Firm can help you file a police report after an accident and use the official report to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company for maximum compensation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Police Report After a Car Accident?
Drivers have 24 hours to file a written report with the local police department or the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for injury or fatal accidents. If a driver is physically unable to call the police, a vehicle passenger can go forward with filing a police report after an accident instead.
For example, if you are in an accident and suffer whiplash and a sprained wrist, you must call the local authorities or CHP to report the accident and provide a written report within 24 hours. If you suffer a TBI and are in the hospital, another involved party must make the report.
When Are You Required to File an Accident Report?
You must file an accident report if the collision resulted in injury, death, or property damage. Specifically, you, your attorney, or your insurance agent must report your accident to the DMV within 10 days if it involved:
- Property damage exceeding $1,000
- Injuries to one or more drivers or passengers
- Death to any party involved in the accident
You must file a crash report with the SR-1 Form entitled Report of a Traffic Accident Occurring in California. You can also have your legal representatives file it on your behalf. The SR-1 Form requires you to complete the following information:
- Accident information, including date, time, location, and number of vehicles involved
- The reporting party and the other party’s contact, vehicle, and insurance details
- The names and addresses of those who have died, suffered injuries, or sustained property damage
- Your vehicle’s insurer and insurance policy number
The DMV may send the information in the Form to the insurance company listed for your vehicle. If you do not complete filling out the insurance information for your car, the DMV assumes you did not have insurance at the time of the accident and suspends your license.
This suspension can last up to 4 years if you did not have insurance coverage at the time of the accident, regardless of who is responsible. If you obtain a California Insurance Proof Certificate and show it within the 3 years of your 4-year suspension, the DMV will return your driver’s license.
Getting a Police Report After an Accident
After an accident, you can obtain a copy of the police report for your records. With the help of your auto accident attorney, you can use the police report to support your insurance claim for compensation.
For example, the police report should contain factual data regarding your collision, such as weather conditions, and forensic observations, such as skid marks, that can prove the other driver was speeding or driving recklessly.
You or your attorney can get a police report after an accident by filling out CHP 190 – Collision Request Form (PDF) and submitting it along with a photocopy of your state driver’s license, ID card, or notarized signature at the nearest California Highway Patrol (CHP) office in person or by mail.
When filling out the Form, the CHP advises having the following information:
- Date of the collision
- Crash location
- Name of driver or owner of vehicles
- Your name and address
- Insurance information
For reports 25 pages or shorter, you will pay a $10 fee through a personal check or money order. If your collision report is longer, the price increases by $10 for every additional 25 pages.
What Happens if I Don’t File a Report with the DMV or the Police?
The California DMV can suspend your driver’s license if you fail, refuse, or neglect to file a report. The suspension will remain in place until the DMV receives your accident report regarding the collision.
If the accident caused severe injury or death, and you did not notify the police or the DMV, you may be subject to criminal penalties. The following penalties may apply if you fail to report the accident:
- State imprisonment for 2, 3, or 4 years
- County jail time for 90 days or at least 1 year
- Fines between $1,000 to $10,000
Do I Have to Report the Accident to My Auto Insurance Company?
Every driver in the state must meet California’s minimum auto insurance requirements to cover bodily and property damage in an accident. If the negligent party in your accident doesn’t have insurance or lacks sufficient coverage for your injuries, you can file with your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for a settlement.
However, most insurance policies will refuse to cover liability or collision damages if you do not report an accident you are involved in immediately after it occurs. Some insurers require you to file within 24 hours; however, you should review your policy with your attorney to understand your deadlines.
If you file a claim with a negligent driver’s insurance, you must also file as soon as possible. California insurance code requires insurers to investigate claims and respond with a settlement or denial within 40 days of filing. The sooner you file, the faster your claim may be paid.
How The Shirvanian Law Firm Can Help You
If a car accident leaves you with property damage and injuries, a car accident lawyer from The Shirvanian Law Firm can help you with filing a police report after leaving the scene of the accident. You can rely on The Shirvanian Law Firm to protect your legal interests and ensure you receive the appropriate compensation under the other driver’s insurance policy or your uninsured motorist coverage.
Contact The Shirvanian Law Firm to book a free consultation to discuss your case.