My Legal Obligations After a Car Accident

*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.

So you have just gotten into a collision with your vehicle. You are probably asking yourself a lot of legal, personal and financial questions, the first of them being what do I need to do now? This blog will help orient you in this situation on what steps you need to take to handle your end of things. Once you have done that, you will be free to think on what will come of this incident and maybe even consider whether it would be appropriate to pursue damages. Please note that this blog is specific to California state law.

The first thing to be aware of is your obligation to report a collision to the appropriate authorities/entities. According to California Vehicle Code Section 20008, you need to notify authorities of the crash with a written report within 24 hours of the crash if any parties were injured or killed. Of course in situations with death or grave injury, you need to be calling first responders to the scene anyway. The exception to this rule necessitating a personally written statement would be if a police officer responds to the scene and documents the incident themselves. You would not need to submit an additional report in this case.

In California, it is also necessary in most cases in which a car accident has occurred to report it to the CDMV, or the California Department of Motor Vehicles. On their website you can find the link to the accident report form, SR-1, at It is required that you report a crash to the DMV within ten days if any of the following criteria apply: if any injury, no matter how minor, occurred; anyone in the accident was killed; the accident resulted in property damage, be it to the vehicles or otherwise, greater than $750.

There is actually no state or federally written legal obligation to report your car accident to your insurance; not in California, nor nationwide. However, while it might not be in violation of state or federal law, not reporting an accident does mean violating the terms of your insurance. As it is a general policy that every insurance contract does require that the policyholder report their accident within “a reasonable period of time” . However, it is very common for people to handle damages outside of insurance when possible to avoid increasing their rates.

The whole reason for your insurance asking you to report your accident in a timely manner is so that they can begin to prepare to defend your claim. Because your insurance has a vested interest in proving that the damages of the collision were the fault of someone else involved.

It is in these circumstances where you can stand to make decent money on the damages, and why it pays to find a good lawyer to go after them aggressively. Now that you have done your due diligence with reporting as outlined above, you can focus on getting the money you are entitled to.

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