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California’s Accident Reporting Requirement

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Reporting requirements

Vehicle accidents are pretty common in California, as driving on California roads and highways can be a hazardous proposition. In 2019 alone, there were more than 3,450 motor vehicles accidents in California. In 2020, around 3,723 motor vehicle deaths were reported in California.

Being in an automobile always involves a risk of being involved in a road accident. It doesn’t matter if you are an excellent driver or know all the traffic rules; these accidents are unfortunate and unpredictable. Whether you go through a minor collision or a significant accident, having sufficient knowledge regarding what to do can help you avoid costly liabilities.

Some of the common causes of motor vehicle accidents in California include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving 
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Running red lights
  • Running stop signs
  • Use of mobile phones during driving
  • Inexperienced drivers
  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Tailgating
  • Improper turns
  • Road conditions
  • Animal crossings
  • Street racing
  • Defective automotive parts

Reporting Car Accidents in California

Suppose you have recently been in a car accident. In that case, you might be wondering if the authorities need to be alerted about the accident. As per California Vehicle Code 16000, you must report a car accident after it occurs to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. It involves writing all kinds of car accidents on and off roads and highways that result in deaths, injuries, or property damage exceeding a specific value.


How To Report a Car Accident in California?

You are legally obliged to notify the legal authorities regarding a car accident, but how to report a car accident in California?

For reporting car accidents in California, you must complete and submit the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California, also known as Form SR-1. You can get Form SR-1 online from the California DMV

Exceptions to Car Accident Reporting in Vehicle

According to California law, you must report a car accident if the vehicle involved was owned, leased, or even used under the directions of the US, California, or any other state or local agency.

What is a Form SR-1?

Form SR-1 is an official legal document issued by the California DMV that helps encourage full disclosure and transparency of pertinent information after a car accident. According to the state law, it is a requirement to fill out and submit the form within ten days of a car/vehicle accident that involves:

  • Deaths (It could be a driver, passenger, bicyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian, etc.)
  • Personal injuries
  • Property damage surpassing $1000

Information Requirements for Form SR-1

When filling out the Form SR-1 to report a car accident in California, you are required to provide the following information:

General Accident Information

You must provide the general information about the car accident, including:

  • Date and time when the car accident took place
  • The specific location where the car accident took place such as city, county, area, etc

Driver’s Personal Information

You must provide the driver’s personal information, including:

  • Driver’s full legal name
  • Driver’s full legal address
  • Driver’s license number
  • Vehicle information such as model, license plate number

Insurance Information

According to California Vehicle Code 16000, all motor vehicle drivers and owners must carry insurance coverage for their registered vehicles. The coverage should be minimally acceptable, and you also must provide related auto insurance information on the Form SR-1:

  • Name of the insurance company/provider
  • Insurance policy number
  • Insurance policy period and expiration date
  • Full name of the policyholder
  • Full address of the policyholder

Information About Injuries, Deaths, and Property Damages

You must submit detailed information about deaths, personal injuries, and property damages due to the accident. it includes all information regarding everyone involved in the car accident, such as drivers, passengers, pedestrians, etc.:

  • Full name of the victim
  • Full address of the victim
  • Type of harm (whether it is a death, an injury, or property damage)
  • Description and the total value of the property damage
  • Connection with the accident (whether the victim is a driver, passenger, pedestrian, etc.)

What If You Do Not Submit a Completed Form SR-1?

Suppose you do not report a motor vehicle accident in California and do not submit Form SR-1. In that case, there are a few consequences, such as license suspension and the inability to recover insurance coverage:

License Suspension

Not submitting Form SR-1 to California DMV within ten days of an accident can suspend your driver’s license. Furthermore, the state may take other necessary administrative actions that affect your driving privileges.

Inability to Recover Insurance Coverage

To file an insurance claim and gather another driver’s insurance information, you must submit Form SR-19C. However, you cannot do it if you haven’t already successfully filed Form SR-1 with the California DMV. Therefore, not submitting Form SR-1 prevents you from recovering the insurance coverage that you need from the blameable party’s insurance provider.

Reporting Boating Accidents in California

Boating accidents might seem rare, but they are somewhat common. Thousands of boating accidents occur annually in the US, with approximately 700 deaths and 2,600 injuries per year. Some states see more boating accidents, such as Florida, California, etc.

Some of the common causes of boat accidents are:

  • Poor maneuverability
  • Poor attention while operating the boat
  • Inexperienced boat drivers
  • Speeding
  • Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and drugs
  • Faulty equipment

Just like road accidents, reporting boating accidents in California is also necessary. According to the law, a boat owner or boat operator is under an obligation to report boating accidents to the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) when it includes:

  • Any deaths due to the accident 
  • Injuries to anyone that requires medical attention further than first aid 
  • Disappearance of anyone
  • Damage to the vessel/boat exceeding a value of $500
  • Damage to another property exceeding a value of $500
  • Complete loss of a vessel

Specific Periods to Report a Boat Accident

There are specific periods within which you must report boat accidents:

  • Suppose a death occurs within 24 hours of the boating accident, the disappearance of anyone, and injuries beyond first aid. In that case, it must be reported within 48 hours of the accident.
  • Suppose a boating accident involves death after 24 hours of the accident, damages of more than $500 value, and a total loss of a vessel. In that case, it must be reported within ten days of the accident.

How To Report a Boating Accident in California?

If you are a boat owner or operator, you must complete and submit DBW’S Boating Accident Report (BAR). You must provide information similar to Form SR-1, including names, addresses, boat registration numbers, and boat insurance information. 

If you are a harbor policeman, peace officer, or first responder, you must complete and submit DBW’S Vessel Accident Report (VAR).

You can get both forms online from DBW’s website. 

What Should You Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident in California?

You need to take specific steps soon after being involved in a motor vehicle accident. This is crucial to ensure that responsible parties are held accountable for the accident and that there are no unnecessary costly liabilities on you.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to do after an automobile accident:

Report the accident

After being in a car or boat accident, you must first call 911 and report it to the police authorities. If necessary, you can file a report as it will create a legal trail of the accident. The report contains information regarding the cause of the accident and every party involved in the accident, both the victim and the guilty party.

Get Immediate Medical Attention

Get immediate medical attention if you have sustained any injuries in the accident. It is essential to get a thorough check-up even if your injuries are not severe. Some injuries might not become right after the accident but can have severe consequences later.

Take Visual Evidence

You must gather visual evidence by taking photos of the accident scene with your mobile phone. Make sure to take pictures of the other party’s car and license plate number. This documentary evidence will help you with your insurance claim with the other party’s insurance company.

Get Contact Information of Other Party Involved

Ask for information about any other party involved in the accident. This will help you when you are filling out Form SR-1. You should also ask the witnesses present at the accident scene for their names and contact details, as this will work in your favor if any legal actions. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Do You Have to Report Accidents in California? 

According to laws in California, you are required to report your accidents within a specific amount of time if there is death, injury, or property damage involved. You must submit a Form SR-1 to the California Department of Motor Vehicles for road accidents within ten days of an accident. You must submit a BAR form to the California Division of Boating and Waterways for boat accidents. If you fail to do so, you might face penalties.

Why Do Many People Not Report Accidents? 

There are many reasons why an individual may not want to file a report of an accident:

  • The parties involved think that the accident is minor.
  • There are no substantial injuries or property damage
  • They do not have insurance coverage

What Should You Not Do After an Accident?

Here are a few things you should avoid after being in an accident:

  • Arguing with other drivers and passengers.
  • Signing any statements that say you are liable to pay for the other party’s damage. 
  • Accepting any deductible offers from the other party.
  • Sharing sensitive information regarding the accident with anyone except the police and insurance company. 

What If a Car Accident Is Not Reported For 365 Days?

Suppose all the parties involved in an accident have not reported the accident to California DMV within 365 days after the accident. In that case, DMV is not required to file a report on that accident. The state’s driver’s license suspension laws will not apply when this happens.

What Are California Auto Insurance Requirements?

While underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage is not required, California law requires that all automobile drivers and the owner must have the following minimum insurance:

  • $15,000 coverage for death or injuries of a single person involved in an accident
  • $30,000 coverage for death or injuries of more than one person involved in an accident 
  • $5,000 coverage for property damage

Do I Have to Report the Accident to My Auto Insurance Company in California?

There are no state laws regarding reporting the accident to your insurer in California. However, we recommend letting your auto insurance company know as soon as possible after an accident. Because the sooner they know about it, the sooner they can start investigating the claim. 

Suppose you fail to report an accident to your insurance provider within a reasonable time. In that case, they might deny you coverage related to the accident.

What Damages Can I Claim After a Car Accident in California?

Following are the different sorts of damages you can ask for compensation after a car accident in California:

  • Property damage, which includes covering the car itself and any other valuable item 
  • Bodily injuries or medical costs include ambulance costs, hospital visits, medication, surgeries, rehabilitation expenses, follow-up appointments, etc.
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of income
  • Wrongful death

Report an Accident in California with The Help of an Attorney 

Suppose you need help reporting car or boating accidents in California or have questions about filing a Form SR-1 to register a car crash. In that case, you need to contact a skilled attorney right away. Getting necessary help from a qualified attorney from Phoong Law will help you file your report with DMV or DBW, ensuring you get the damage recovery you may be entitled to.

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Injury Lawyer, Anh Phoong, Esq.