When most of us leave our homes in the morning and get into the car, we assume that we will arrive at the destination safely and without incident. Unfortunately, car collisions can happen to anyone at any time—even the most careful and attentive drivers. Sharing the road with distracted drivers or those who engage in unsafe driving habits (like speeding or driving while intoxicated) puts us at risk of suffering an auto accident injury due to someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior behind the wheel. The immediate aftermath of a car accident can be disorienting and chaotic, especially if you suffered an injury requiring medical attention. As you cope with your injuries and exchange contact and insurance information with the other parties at the scene, you may wonder whether it’s necessary to report the accident to anyone else. In California, car accidents that result in physical injuries or property damage of $1,000 or more must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and local law enforcement. Let’s take a look at your reporting obligations in Riverside County and the steps you can take to maximize your chances of pursuing and securing a favorable settlement to support your physical and financial recovery after the incident.
Understanding the DMV’s Reporting Requirements
The moments following an auto accident can be disorienting and confusing. Your top priority should be to assess yourself and others at the scene for any injuries requiring immediate medical attention. Once you’ve called for an ambulance or dealt with other medical needs, you may wonder about reporting the accident. The California DMV lists its auto accident reporting requirements on its website, stating that any accident involving physical injury (no matter how minor) or property damage exceeding $1,000 must be reported. Essentially, the DMV’s reporting requirements exist to monitor the driving history of all drivers and identify any negligent drivers who may pose a significant safety risk to others on the road. You have a ten-day window in which to report the accident to the DMV. In order to notify the DMV of an accident, you must complete an SR-1 report, which is available at DMV offices, California Highway Patrol (CHP) offices, or online. Anyone can file an SR-1 report, regardless of whether they were the party responsible for causing the collision. In fact, your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative may complete and file this form on your behalf. If you have suffered catastrophic injuries that make it difficult for you to complete this task, enlisting the guidance of a trusted and caring Temecula car accident lawyer is the best way to ensure that all reporting obligations are handled as you focus on your recovery.
When to Notify Local Law Enforcement of a Car Accident
In addition to notifying the DMV about an auto accident, you will likely need to inform the police or the California Highway Patrol (CHP) of the incident as well. California’s Vehicle Code states that drivers involved in an auto accident must report the incident to local law enforcement if the crash resulted in any injuries or fatalities. It’s best to call the police from the scene of the collision so the responding officer can arrive and compile a police report. The police report serves as an objective account of the factors leading up to and resulting from the accident, such as unsafe road conditions, statements from witnesses who saw the at-fault party texting behind the wheel, and any other relevant information. When you are ready to file a claim to recover compensation, you can request a copy of the police report to include with your claim. This document can help establish the other driver’s fault and strengthen your request for collecting the compensation you need to support your recovery.
The Consequences of Failing to Report a Car Accident
Although you may not think your injuries are serious enough to justify reporting the accident to the DMV or the police, failing to fulfill your reporting obligations may lead to negative consequences. If you do not complete an SR-1 report within the ten-day window, or if you do not have the proper insurance coverage at the time of the auto accident, the DMV may suspend your driving privileges. Additionally, if you fail to report a car accident involving fatalities or injuries to the police within 24 hours of the crash, you may be charged with an infraction or forced to pay traffic ticket fines. While California laws do not require you to report an accident to the insurance company, the details of your policy may state that failing to report an accident within a reasonable amount of time may result in the denial of your coverage. Your safest option after any auto accident, no matter how minor the injuries may seem, is to contact the DMV, local law enforcement, and your insurance company as soon as possible.
How an Experienced Murrieta Auto Accident Lawyer Can Help
It’s no secret that the days, weeks, and months after an auto accident can be stressful and overwhelming. As you focus on your physical recovery and attend doctor’s appointments, you may worry about the medical bills that are piling up—especially if you are losing out on your wages because of your injuries. However, as discouraged as you may feel at this moment, it’s crucial to recognize that you are never alone. Enlisting the guidance of a skilled and compassionate Temecula auto accident lawyer is the best way for you to feel supported during this challenging time. Your attorney will work with you to maximize your settlement offer to ensure that you secure the compensation you need to get your life back on track.
If you or someone you love has suffered an auto accident injury in Temecula or Murrieta, consider enlisting the help of a dedicated car accident lawyer to file a claim and recover the compensation you need to support the recovery. Call Hales & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation, today at (951) 489-3320 to learn more.