How Much Is Your Car Accident Settlement Worth? Free Settlement Estimate

How to File a Vehicle Accident Report

How to File a Vehicle Accident Report

After an accident, many people feel overwhelmed and confused about what procedures to follow. Besides seeking medical treatment for injuries sustained in the crash, filing a vehicle accident report is one of the most important steps to take in the wake of a wreck. Though most people know to call the police after a collision, many do not realize they may be required to file an additional report with the DMV. Fail to do so, and you could face harsh penalties – including expensive fines and suspension of your license.

Filing a Police Report

Contact the police anytime you have been involved in an accident. Though technically not required in some states, it’s always a good idea to do so. No matter how minor a car accident might seem, filing a police report is critical, especially if you planning on pursuing compensation in the form of a car accident settlement or lawsuit down the road.

Many times, damage done to the vehicles in the wreck isn’t initially obvious. Physical damage can be hard to spot to the untrained eye. Suspension and frame damage often require a mechanic to properly diagnose. Injuries, too, can go unnoticed while a person’s adrenaline is pumping after an accident. Fail to report the incident when it happens, and you may find yourself struggling to prove it ever happened.

Chances are good that you will feel shaken up after an accident. Calling police to the scene allows someone with experience and authority to help you clearly assess the situation. Their report will provide the insurance company with an accurate report of what occurred and provides a paper trail should legal problems emerge.

When police arrive on the scene, they will first ensure that cars are moved to a safe, secure area and call in first responders to treat injuries in the event first responders aren’t already en route. Next, they’ll collect basic information from the people involved in the wreck; names, addresses, phone numbers and driver’s license information will likely be included in the report. The police may speak to witnesses or passengers who were involved in the accident. If negligence or traffic violations occurred, one or both drivers may find themselves being charged.

Ultimately, the police report will help to evaluate the situation and ensure nobody is being scammed. The official report will come in handy when filing a car accident claim with the insurance company or, if necessary, filing a lawsuit. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the police for an accident report. They’re there to help.

Filing a Report with the DMV

In many states, filing a police report after an accident just isn’t enough. Depending on where you live, you may be required to also file a report with the DMV. Generally, this is necessary when the property damage done in the wreck exceeds a specific, predetermined amount. This amount varies depending on your state. For New Yorkers involved in a wreck, damage of more than $1,001 requires a report to the DMV. In other states, if a vehicle was towed from the scene of the accident, the incident must be reported to the DMV, too.

DMV reports may also be necessary if someone was hurt or killed in the wreck. A majority of states ask drivers involved in fatal accidents to report the incident to the DMV. Some, though, require reports for even minor accidents with the smallest of injuries. Depending upon your state, there may be other criteria that require you to report accidents to the DMV. It’s a good idea to check with your local office to determine if filing a report with the DMV is necessary after your accident.

Deadlines for DMV reports vary by state. Some require a report within hours of the incident, while others allow a more generous reporting window. To ensure you’re not missing important deadlines, call your local DMV for details. Generally, it’s a good idea to file the report as soon as possible after the accident.

To file your report with the DMV, pick up a form from the police station or nearby DMV office. It may also be available online. As you fill it out, be sure to include as much detail as possible and make a copy for yourself.

Next Steps

While reporting your accident to the police and DMV is a good start, it’s also a good idea to call your auto insurance company’s claims department. Even if the accident was not your fault, your policy likely includes clauses requiring you to inform the company about any incident in which you are involved. You do not have to file a claim, simply calling and informing the company that the accident occurred is enough.

Be sure to meet the reporting deadlines required by your state. Failure to report a car accident can result in expensive fines and even the suspension of your driver’s license. If you’re feeling unsure about the reporting process or requirements, call your DMV office or police station for more information.

About Graham Bersche, JD

A graduate of Trinity Law School in Southern California, Graham Bersche has experience as a paralegal, negotiator, and legal writer. He lives in Los Angeles and is passionate about helping people who’ve been injured in car accidents to understand the laws governing their situations and learn how to maximize their car accident settlements.