Car accidents can be tense situations. Even if the damage is not particularly extensive, there can be a lasting impact on your mental health just from the experience. Even a fender bender, which can result in minor damage to the vehicle, can be a traumatic experience under the right circumstances. If you have been involved in a fender bender in Riverside, reach out to a Riverside car accident lawyer quickly so you can take the appropriate next steps.

When to File a Police Report for a Car Accident

One of the potential steps to take is reporting the accident to the police. Not every accident must be reported, however. You do not necessarily need to file a police report for a minor accident unless that accident has resulted in any kind of substantial damage. According to the California Vehicle Code, drivers must make a written report with the proper authorities within 24 hours of a car accident if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • Someone was injured in the accident.
  • Someone was killed in the accident.
  • Damage to the vehicle or any other property exceeds $1,000

If any of these circumstances apply to the accident, drivers must also fill out an SR-1 report with the DMV within 10 days of the accident. An SR-1 form is a “Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California” form that officially documents the accident. If you do not complete this form within the designated time limit, your license can be suspended.

In a minor car accident, like a fender bender, you don’t need a police report, but it certainly helps. You can still pursue an insurance claim without a police report when dealing with very minor damage, but it helps to see that you went to great lengths to document the accident. The police report serves as proof that the accident happened in the way that you claim.

It might be beneficial to contact the insurance company directly and learn what their procedures are for starting an insurance claim after an accident. They will inform you of their requirements. If they require a police report for a claim, you should report the accident as soon as possible.

What If You Don’t Report the Accident

If you fail to report an accident that caused injury, death, or substantial property damage, you will likely be unable to file an insurance claim. You need a valid police report detailing the incident in order to claim anything from the insurance company. You will be unable to get any sort of compensation as you have no official evidence of the accident.

In a worst-case scenario, you could permanently lose your license, pay hefty fines, or serve jail time for failing to report a significant car accident that you were involved in. Retaining an attorney is a wise choice if you failed to report an accident, as they can get all the correct processes started.

An attorney can start building your case from the ground up by interviewing witnesses, assessing property damage, and gathering evidence to support your claim. They will also be able to support you in court and argue why you failed to file a police report.

Having an experienced attorney by your side will be invaluable once the consequences of your inaction start coming back to haunt you. It is advised to retain knowledgeable legal counsel who can help you determine how to most effectively handle everything.


Q: Do I Have to File a Police Report for a Minor Car Accident in California?

A: You do not necessarily have to file a police report for a minor car accident in California. However, it is likely your insurance company will require a police report to prove the accident occurred before they will begin to process a claim. If a car accident results in injury, death, or substantial property damage, you are required to file a police report and an SR-1 report within the required time frame.

Q: Can You File an Insurance Claim Without a Police Report in California?

A: Yes, you can still file an insurance claim if you do not have a police report, though it may be considerably harder to get compensation without one. Without a valid police report, the insurance company will have an easier time denying you compensation. They could argue that the accident never actually happened. They could argue your injuries were caused elsewhere. They could claim that if the accident was as bad as you claim, you would have notified the police.

Q: Is it Illegal to Not Report a Car Accident in California?

A: It is illegal not to report a car accident if the accident resulted in injury, death, or significant property damage. Even an accident that caused a minor injury should be reported. If you learn the property damage exceeds $1,000, the report should also be made. The bottom line is failure to report a qualifying car accident of any kind can have severe, life-altering consequences for you.

Q: What Happens if You Don’t Call the Police After an Accident in California?

A: If you fail to report an accident you were involved in to the police in California, there is a good chance you could be charged with a misdemeanor hit and run. This very serious charge could result in a revocation of your driver’s license, hefty fines, and substantial jail time. You could also lose your insurance coverage permanently. The safest route to prevent these consequences is to report any accident that may meet the qualifications for a reportable accident.

Hire a Good Lawyer Today

At My SoCal Lawyers, we can guide you through the process of reporting a car accident to the appropriate authorities. This will prevent you from dealing with unnecessary stress that results from doing the wrong thing, intentionally or otherwise. We help people deal with the fallout of car accidents all the time, so trust us when we say we understand the processes that must be followed after an accident. Contact us as soon as you can to schedule a consultation. You don’t have to go it alone.