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Do I Need to Call the Police After a Car Accident?

Getting into an accident can be a scary experience. Even if the accident is relatively minor, the incident can create unneeded stress for all involved. Many people wonder whether or not they need to call 911 after an accident occurs, particularly if the crash did not cause any injuries. While calling the police after a car accident may seem like an unnecessary hassle, the reality is that most vehicle accidents need to be reported by law in California.

What Does the Law in California Say About Reporting Accidents?

When we turn to California Vehicle Code section 20008, we can see that the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident is required to report the crash to the California Highway Patrol or the police department of the jurisdiction where the accident occurred within 24 hours if there were any injuries or death involved in the incident.

What Needs to Happen at the Scene of the Crash

While the law specifically states that accidents that involve injury or death must be reported within 24 hours, the reality is that somebody involved in a crash should call the police immediately, regardless of how major or minor the incident is. When the police come to the scene of the crash, the officer can:

  • Provide for or call EMS if this has not already been done.
  • Protect the accident scene.
  • Investigate and document the causes of the crash.
  • Determine liability for the incident.
  • Resolve any disputes with the other driver.
  • Obtain all driver contact information.

When a police officer comes to the scene of a crash, they will prepare a written report of the accident on behalf of the agency, which means that you will not have to provide your own separate accident report within 24 hours.

Reporting the Crash to the DMV

In most car accident cases, the crash will also need to be reported to the California DMV. The crash must be reported to the DMV within 10 days if:

  • There were any injuries in the accident, regardless of how minor
  • There were any fatalities in the accident
  • The accident resulted in property damage of more than $1,000

Reporting the Crash to the Insurance Carrier

Most insurance carriers have strict deadlines involving reporting accidents. As a policyholder, failing to report an accident as agreed upon in the insurance policy contract could result in the insurance carrier denying coverage for the incident. Even if a car accident seems relatively minor, and even if it is not reportable in California, you should still let your insurance carrier know about the incident.

The Bottom Line for Calling the Police After an Accident

The reality is that calling the police after an accident is going to be the most prudent thing to do. Not only will calling the police satisfy any reporting requirements determined about the state, but the investigation by a police officer will provide you with evidence and documentation you will need for your report to the DMV as well as your report to the insurance carrier.

Failing to call the police could result in your car accident becoming a “He said, she said” type of incident, leading to you becoming liable for a crash even if you did not cause it. If you or someone you know have been injured by a negligent driver, a San Francisco car accident lawyer can help you fight for compensation.