Depending on the circumstances of your traffic accident, you may need to file a report with the DMV, the police, and your insurance company.
Reporting an accident to the DMV
An accident that causes injuries, death, or property damage greater than $1,000 to any one vehicle or property must be reported to the DMV, as specified in Vehicle Code 16000. To report to the DMV, you (or someone else on your behalf, such as an insurance agent or lawyer) must fill out and submit an SR-1 form (Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California) within 10 days.
To fill out this form, you will need certain information: including the location and time of the accident, the names, addresses, birthdates, driver’s licenses, and license plate numbers and states for the other drivers involved in the accident. You will also need their insurance company, policy number, and expiration date. In addition, you will need to provide information like the name and address of your insurance policy holder, name and address of the owner of your vehicle, and details about any injuries or property damage sustained in the accident. You should gather this information at the scene of the accident so you can file a DMV report after leaving the scene.
The report can be delivered to your local DMV office or mailed to the office of the department of Sacramento at the following address:
Department of Motor Vehicles
Mail Station J237
P.O. Box 942884
Sacramento, CA 94284-0884
If you fail to fill out and submit a report with the DMV, your driver’s license may be suspended. However, you do not need to file a report for an accident involving a vehicle owned or leased by the United States, the state of California, any other U.S. state, or a local agency; or for an accident involving a vehicle owned by a school district but driven by a contractor. You also do not need to file a report if the accident occurred on your property and either did not involve anyone else or did not cause injury or death.
Reporting an accident to the police
You must report an accident to the police within 90 minutes of the crash if someone was injured or killed and you were one of the drivers. If police arrive on the scene of the accident, then you can report it to them immediately, and if they file a written report, you generally do not need to file one yourself. Under other circumstances, you must report the accident to police within 24 hours of the crash. These circumstances include cases when the property damage sustained in the accident is greater than $3000, cases in which drivers did not exchange information at the scene of the accident, a vehicle was towed or carried away from the accident scene, or the police did not arrive on the scene. If police do not arrive, you can report the accident to your local police station.
To file a police report, you will need to give information about yourself, including details about your driver’s license and vehicle registration. You will also need to provide the location and time of the accident, and information about everyone else involved in the accident, including their vehicle registration information. In your report, be as detailed as possible. When you describe what happened, include details like the number of passengers in the other vehicle, the names of any witnesses, and any injuries or property damage to your vehicle, yourself, and your passengers.
If the accident occurred on a highway, report it to the California Highway Patrol. Otherwise, report it to the police of the city in which the accident occurred. In some cases, you can report a crash online.
Even if you feel a police report is unnecessary, it may still be a good idea to file one. Remember that not all injuries from accidents manifest immediately, and you may not realize at first the extent of the damage your vehicle sustained. Additionally, the other party in the accident may later change his or her mind about who was at fault in the accident – in which case a police report will be helpful.
Reporting an accident to the insurance company
While you are not legally required to report an accident to your insurance company, automobile insurance companies generally require you (or the policyholder) to report an accident within a reasonable period of time. To be on the safe side, you should report an accident to your insurance provider within a day or two of the crash, even if the accident was minor. This way, you’ll be able to find out if your insurance provider will cover the accident.