Many people involved in minor car accidents want to avoid reporting the accident to their insurance company on the assumption their insurance rates will increase or that they can work things out with the other driver without involving insurance.
While this is understandable, most accidents do need to be reported, even if they are minor. Here’s what you should know about the requirements to report an accident to your insurance company, DMV, and police in California.
When Must an Accident Be Reported?
California law requires that an accident be reported to the DMV within 10 days if someone is injured, killed, or the accident results in property damage exceeding $750. If you are involved in a minor accident without injuries and aren’t sure if it needs to be reported, you can get estimates on the damage to find out if it exceeds this limit.
To report the accident to the DMV, you, your attorney, or your insurance agent will need to complete the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR-1) that includes:
- Time and place of the accident
- Other driver’s name, address, and birth date
- Other driver’s license information
- Other driver’s insurance company, policy expiration, and policy number
- Policy holder’s name and address
- Vehicle owner’s name and address
- Explanation of injuries and/or property damage
If you do not file a necessary SR-1, your license can be suspended.
Unless police determine the other driver was at fault, any car accident reported to the California DMV will go on your driving record. This means your insurance company will find out regardless of whether you informed them when they check your driving record again to renew your policy or add new coverage.
Any accident that involves an injury in California must also be reported to police or California Highway Patrol if the accident occurs in an unincorporated area. Keep in mind many accident injuries, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), do not always show symptoms right away. While you may not believe you were injured in an accident, it’s still important to contact police to complete an accident report. If you do not and discover later that you were hurt, the other driver may say the accident never happened and it will be your word against theirs.
Why Accidents Should Be Reported to Your Insurance
All insurance companies require policyholders immediately report any accident in which they are involved, even if they do not decide to make a claim. If you do not report an accident to your insurance company, you can face serious penalties later.
For example, if you decide to work something out with the other driver to avoid insurance claims, what happens if the other driver realizes the damage was more serious than they thought or realizes they were injured? If the other driver later makes a claim for property damage or injuries, your insurance company can deny certain protections to you for failing to report the accident.
Failing to inform your insurance company of the accident because you are worried about a premium increase is a bad idea if you were at fault for the accident. If you were at fault, you were likely cited or given a ticket at the scene. This ticket will appear on your driving record and your insurance company will see it when they renew your policy. If they find out you were at fault for an accident you did not report, your premiums will likely skyrocket and they may decide to not offer to renew your policy.
When to Avoid Reporting an Accident
It’s virtually always a good idea (and required by law and your insurance policy) to report an accident. There are exceptions. If the accident occurred on your property, there were no injuries, and the only property damaged is your own, it may be reasonable to avoid reporting the accident because there will be no disputes with another person about fault and no disputes about repair costs.
Don’t let a possible risk of higher premiums stop you from reporting an accident. Reporting the accident to proper authorities and the police protects you if you or the other driver or hurt or a dispute develops over the accident. If you have questions about reporting a car accident, contact an experienced Los Angeles car accident attorney at Farar & Lewis LLP for a free consultation.