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What Happens When You Don’t Report a Car Accident

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Seconds are critical during a car accident. You only have seconds to react, and sometimes you only have seconds to respond. That’s why it’s important to stop, take a breath and think critically about what you need to do next after you’ve been in a car accident. Those seconds after an accident and the choices you make during that time can drastically impact your health, freedom and financial future. 

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the first thing you need to do after any accident, no matter how small, is STOP. If you drive away, then you risk being charged with a hit and run, no matter who is at fault. What happens when you don’t report a car accident? The answer depends on the severity of the injuries and amount of property damage. The California Vehicle Code (CVC 20001), for example, says that any accident resulting in any injury or damages more than $1,000 must be reported to police immediately. Failure to do so could result in a fine, jail time or both. 

That is why if you’re in any type of accident, you’ll want to stop and call a qualified law firm, like Avrek Law, that can help coach you on what to do next.  

What Are the Legal Consequences for Not Reporting an Accident?

Immediately after a car accident, everyone involved (including the passengers) are legally required to stop, and if medical attention isn’t immediately required, to exchange personal information and report the accident. 

The legal ramifications for not sharing information at the accident and then later reporting it to police will vary by state. In California, for example, the consequences for failing to report an accident depends on the severity of the crash. No matter how bad the accident is, if personal information (such as name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance information) or the accident is not reported to police, it’s possible to lose your license for a set amount of time. 

Further to CVC 20001, there is also the chance of one year jail time and facing a minimum $1,000 fine — or both. If someone died or was seriously injured from the accident, then the jail time can be up to four years and pay up to a maximum of $10,000. If it’s proven that anyone fled the scene of the accident, (including the passengers) they could get an extra five years in prison. 

Who Do I Report the Accident Too?

As the initial shock of the accident begins to wear off, it’s important to try and remember as much detail as possible for the accident report. If the accident is serious enough, then a police officer should be on scene and will take care of this part of the paperwork. 

Do you have to report an accident to the police? If damage from the accident is more than $1,000 and anyone is injured as a result of the accident, then the accident will be added to the driving record of both parties involved — no matter who caused the accident. For minor fender benders, people usually have 10 days to submit the accident report to the DMV by filing an SR-1 form, instead of the police. However, if there is any injury and the damage is greater than $1,000, it’s best to report the accident to the police to avoid additional fines and potential jail time.  

Do you have to report an accident to your insurance? As stated in CVC 20003, there is no legal requirement to report an accident to an insurance provider. However, failing to do so could lead to larger legal and financial issues with an insurance provider depending on the type of contract that was signed. 

According to, many people forgo reporting minor scrapes, dings and fender benders to avoid paying expensive deductibles and having their premiums increase. Again, if the accident injures anyone involved or the damage is more than $1,000, make sure to file a police report, share personal information and even take photos of the incident for your records. 

Should You Move Your Car After an Accident?

This really depends on how serious the accident is. If both parties are uninjured and the cars are drivable, it’s recommended to move to the immediate shoulder of the road to avoid blocking traffic where it’s safer to exchange personal information. If anyone is injured or it’s too dangerous to operate the vehicle, then it’s best to wait for the ambulance and police officers to arrive before moving any vehicles.  

Before you move your car after a serious accident, Avrek Law recommends following these steps:

woman and man arguing next to green car - what happens when you dont report a car accident
  1. Stop immediately
  2. Secure the scene
  3. Call the police
  4. Take photos
  5. Create accurate records
  6. Exchange Information
  7. Report the accident
  8. Seek medical attention
  9. Keep a file
  10. Locate any witnesses
  11. Don’t admit fault
  12. Understand your insurance
  13. Contact a lawyer
  14. Remove belongings from car

Can I Call a Lawyer Right After an Accident?

If you’re in an accident and are wondering, ‘what happens when you don’t report a car accident?’ This would be the perfect time to call a qualified law firm like Avrek Law for advice. When you work with a lawyer, they have the experience and knowledge to ensure you’re not leaving yourself at risk of a lawsuit or forgoing the opportunity to sue for proper compensation for injuries and damages sustained from the car accident. They even know how to get a copy of a police report from an accident to help you build your case. With more than 50 years combined experience representing cases that involve car accidents in several states, Avrek Law are experts when it comes to ensuring you get the justice you deserve. The consultation is free and you’ll get advice from a law firm with more than $1 billion recovered in more than 45,000 cases. View one of our locations or contact us for a free consultation.

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