Experiencing a car accident is chaotic. Not only are you dealing with the stress of the accident itself, but you also have to face the insurance and legal processes that might ensue. In the aftermath of a crash, it can be difficult to have the mental clarity to navigate the important next steps to take. Even determining if and how to report an accident can be overwhelming. However, accident reporting is a crucial step for full financial recovery and, in most cases, is legally required. Reporting your accident is often the difference between a smooth insurance process and a complicated one. Outlined below is a detailed guide for car accident reporting in California by Setareh Law.

When You Need to Report Your Car Accident 

Each state has different rules for when a car accident must be reported. In California, you must report a car accident when: 


  • The estimated damage from the accident is equal to or exceeds $1,000
  • Any of the drivers involved do not have a license
  • Any of the drivers involved are injured or killed in the crash


In addition to understanding when you are legally required to report a crash, it is important to know how to properly report your accident. In most cases, it is not enough to only report your accident to the police.  If you are involved in a reportable accident, it is likely that you will have to report it to your insurance company and the California DMV. It is helpful to consult with a lawyer because the agencies you have to report to are case-specific.  

Do I Need to Contact the Police After My Car Accident?

In California, when you are involved in an accident that meets any of the previously mentioned criteria, you must call the police. When the police arrive on the scene, they will investigate the crash to determine if criminal charges need to be pursued and if a police report is necessary. If a report is filed, it is vital that you receive a copy. However, a police report is not always required. In some cases, the police might assess the scene and determine that there isn’t grounds for a report. 

If the estimate of the property damage is below $1,000 and there are no injuries from the crash, you don’t need to contact the police. Instead, you can exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. However, it is important to thoroughly assess whether your accident meets reportable requirements. If you aren’t a car expert, it may be difficult to know for sure whether the damage is less than $1,000. If there is any body damage to the car such as a dent or broken bumper, it is safe to assume the cost of repair will exceed $1,000. 

If you choose to forgo contacting the police, you should get the contact information, license plate, and insurance company of the other driver in case you need it in the future. 

How Do I Report a Car Accident to My Insurance Company?

The simplest way to report an accident to your insurance company is to call the contact number listed on your statement or their website. Additionally, some insurance companies have mobile apps through which you can report a crash.

If there are no injuries from the crash and your repair costs are low, you should forgo alerting your insurance company. Car accidents that are reported will be recorded on your record and will most likely raise the price of your insurance premium. 

How Do I Report a Car Accident to the California DMV?

In California, you are legally required to report an accident to the DMV within 10 days if anyone was injured in the crash or if the damages exceed $1,000. To report your accident to the DMV, you need to fill out Form SR-1 (Report of a Traffic Accident Occurring in California). You can fill out the form by going to your local DMV, or you can have your insurance agent handle it. 

When to Consult With a Car Accident Lawyer

In some cases, reporting your accident to the required agencies doesn’t result in the outcome you deserve. Specifically, many insurance policies don’t cover all the expenses you might incur from a car accident. In these cases, it is best to consult with a lawyer to ensure you receive appropriate financial compensation from the party at fault. At Setareh Law, our car accident lawyers in Beverly Hills, CA are dedicated to representing plaintiffs in California with their car accident claims. Our dedicated attorneys serve Anaheim, Clovis, Hayward, Irvine, San Diego, Sacramento and more. To schedule a free consultation with one of our trusted attorneys, complete an online contact form or call today at (310) 659-1826