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Do I Need to File a Police Report?

Even a safe, careful, and attentive driver might still end up in a crash. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), more than 500,000 car accidents are reported in the state every year. The immediate aftermath of a crash is stressful and overwhelming—but it is a little easier if you know the steps to take to protect your health, well-being, and legal rights. 

This raises an important question: Do you have to file a police report after an accident in California? The short answer is that most traffic collisions should be reported—though fender benders with no injuries and little damage are an exception. Here, our Los Angeles auto accident lawyers provide a guide to car crashes and police reports in California. 

California Law: Most Traffic Collisions Should Be Reported 

California has strict state-level rules and regulations in place regarding the reporting of traffic collisions. As explained by the California Department of Insurance, a car accident must be reported to state authorities if “anyone is injured or the vehicle damage exceeds $1000.” A collision should be reported to the DMV within ten days of the date it occurred. A violation of the reporting standards will subject a motorist to strict sanctions, potentially including the suspension of their driver’s license. 

The single best way to ensure that an accident is reported properly is to call the police right away. A law enforcement officer will be dispatched to help control the scene and document the crash. Indeed, it is generally in your best interests to make sure that a police officer comes directly to the scene of the collision—especially if the accident is serious and it was not your fault. The officer will write an official crash report.  

You Should Get a Copy of the Police Report After an Accident

A police report is a key piece of evidence in any car accident injury case. We strongly recommend that you take action to obtain a copy of the official police report. To do so, you will need to reach out to the specific law enforcement agency that responded to your crash. Each department is responsible for managing its own records-keeping system. 

As an example, imagine that you were hurt in a crash in the City of Los Angeles. An officer from the  Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) may have responded to the collision and took an official report. If so, you must request a copy of the report through the LAPD. Similar to most law enforcement agencies in California, the LAPD allows Obtain A Traffic Collision Report online. 

Why a Police Report Matters: Documentation and Information 

You may be wondering why the police report matters so much. The short answer is that it can have a significant impact on your car insurance claim and your personal injury case. As a starting point, the traffic collision report is a key form of documentation. It will confirm that a crash actually happened when and where you say it happened. Additionally, the report will provide some basic details about the wreck. Among other things, a car accident report in California may include: 

  • The time and date of the car accident;
  • The specific location of the crash; 
  • Observations about the road and weather conditions; 
  • Contact details for drivers, passengers, and witnesses;
  • Statements from the drivers, passengers, and other witnesses;
  • A description of the crash damage; 
  • Any traffic citations/tickets issues; and
  • Any other information deemed relevant by the police officer. 

In some circumstances, a police report may even include a preliminary assessment of fault. To be clear, the responding police officer does not get to make the final say in deciding who was at fault for the accident. Instead, their report is a key piece of evidence in the claims process. There might even be an error if the crash report. If so, a Los Angeles car accident attorney can help you take proactive steps to address and correct the problem. 

Call Our Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney for Professional Legal Help

At Fisher & Talwar, our California car crash lawyers have the skills, experience, and knowledge to help injured victims recover full financial compensation. We know how to help people navigate the legal claims process. If you have any questions about filing or obtaining a police report after a crash, we can help. Contact us now for a free, completely private review of your case. With an office in Los Angeles, we represent auto accident victims throughout Southern California, including in Anaheim, Glendale, Compton, Long Beach, and Pasadena.