Do I Have to Report a Traffic Accident?

Do I Have to Report a Traffic Accident?

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Most of us have a weird, knee-jerk reaction to traffic accidents. We like to pretend we don’t know about them and try to put as much distance between ourselves and the traffic accident as we possibly can. This is our reaction whether we’re involved in the accident or if we’ve simply witnessed one.

When a traffic accident occurs, many of us wonder if we actually have to report it to the police.

If you’re driving any of the vehicles involved in a car accident, you are legally required to report the accident to the police.

Technically, you have 24 hours to complete a written report about the incident. All things considered, it’s in your best interest to report the accident as soon as it happens. There are several reasons for this:

  • The responding officer will handle writing the written report for you
  • Filing the insurance claim will be easier
  • The events leading up to the cause of the accident is fresh in everyone’s mind
  • You won’t have to worry about being labeled a hit and run driver

In addition to letting the police know about the accident, you need to let your car insurance company know about the accident as quickly as possible. Not only will this put you in a position to receive your claim money as quickly as possible, but if an investigation is needed, they will be able to talk to everyone involved while the details of the accident remain fresh in everyone’s mind.

But what if you merely witnessed a car accident but weren’t directly involved with it?

It’s in your best interest to make sure that everyone who was involved in the accident doesn’t need any type of medical attention and you should also plan on serving as a witness to the incident.


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Documenting a Car Accident

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If you haven’t been in a car accident yet, you should consider yourself lucky. Considering how much time we spend behind the wheel, the odds are good that sooner or later you’ll be involved in one. Because of the likelihood of getting into a car accident, it’s important to know what the proper protocol is during an accident.

The first thing you need to do is make sure neither you nor anyone else is hurt. If there are injuries, call for medical help and do as much first aid as possible. During this, you should also contact the police.

When there are injuries, dealing with those should always be your first priority. Let the police handle writing up the details of the accident.

If there aren’t any injuries, you should still call the police, but while you’re waiting for them to arrive on the scene, take some time to create your own documentation of the accident. Thanks to the installed camera inside your smartphone this is easier than ever. All you have to do is whip it out and start snapping photos.

Having clear accident scene photos is extremely important. Unlike a police report that can be dismissed by a judge as hearsay, the photos you snap at the accident can be used during a civil trial. Your insurance company might even use them as they try to determine how the accident happened and who is at fault. The photos also help provide proof of who actually witnessed the accident.

When you’re snapping photos, you’ll want to take pictures of both vehicles, anyone who is standing nearby, and the local landscape. Make sure you include shots of road signs, objects that could have helped cause the accidents, intersections, and traffic lights.

As soon as you can, sit down and write your own account of what happened in the moments leading up to the car accident. You should do this even if you believe the accident was your fault. Once you’ve completed writing your own report, save it and the photos you snapped somewhere safe. It’s really in your best interest to store copies in multiple places, such as one set in a cloud storage unit, a few more saved to various email locations, and maybe a hard copy in your filing cabinet.

You need to keep the photos and your account of the accident for a full two years. After two years, California’s statute of limitations for car accidents kicks in and you’ll no longer have to worry about a civil lawsuit.