Reportable Collision - When Must I Report a Car Accident to the DMV?

A reportable collision is a traffic accident that a motorist is legally required to report to the DMV. In California, a person involved in an accident must notify the DMV within 10 days if (1) there was property damage of $1,000 or greater, (2) someone is injured, or (3) a person dies in the accident.

Similar reports must be made to the police. Vehicle Code 20008 and 16000 requires a driver involved in a collision to report it to the police when someone was injured or killed. A violation of this statute is an infraction that results in a ticket.

The DMV's reporting requirement exists so that the Department can:

  1. monitor the driving history of all drivers, and
  2. do so to determine if any are negligent operators.

Motorists report a traffic accident to the DMV via a Form SR-1.

Note that California law does not impose any requirement for a driver to report an accident to his/her insurance company.

Our California car accident attorneys will discuss the following in this article:

two cars involved in a car accident
A driver involved in an accident in California must report it to the DMV if property damage was greater than $1,000

1. When must a person report a collision to the DMV?

A driver involved in an accident in California must report it to the DMV (a reportable collision) when:

  1. it caused property damage of $1,000 or greater,
  2. it caused an injury (however slight), and
  3. it caused a death.1

An “accident” or “collision” includes any of the following:

  • two or more cars making contact with one another,
  • a vehicle striking a pedestrian,
  • a vehicle hitting a fixed object (like a pole or sign),
  • a car overturning or flipping without hitting or striking anything, and
  • a passenger of a car falling out of the vehicle.

Every driver involved in the accident must make a report. Further, a driver has to make this report within 10 days of the collision. Notice of the accident is even required if it took place on private property.2

Example: Carlos is driving through a neighborhood. He takes a turn at a fast speed and he bounces of a curb, causing the car to flip up in the air. It lands upside down on the front yard of someone's property. No one is hurt, but Carlos's auto is badly damaged.

Here, Carlos would have to report the accident to the DMV. While nobody was hurt in the incident, the car was damaged in excess of $1,000. This report still has to get made despite the accident happening on private property. Note that if another driver caused Carlos's vehicle to flip, and not the curb, then that driver would also have to make a report to the DMV.

2. When must a person report a collision to the police?

According to Vehicle Code 20008, a driver involved in an accident must report it to police when:

  1. the crash resulted in any injuries, or
  2. the collision caused any deaths.3

This report must be made within 24 hours of the accident and it can be made to either:

Note that these rules do not apply if a patrolman or police officer:

  1. comes to the scene of the accident, and
  2. prepares a written report of the crash.

Here, the report made by the authorities serves as a substitute for a driver's report to the police. However, this is not true with regard to a report to the DMV.

Example: Beth and Ryan get into a traffic accident. A police officer arrives at the scene. He gathers information and prepares an official report.

Here, Beth and Ryan do not have to make their own report to police to satisfy VC 20008. But they both have to still report the incident to the DMV.

Note that if a person does not report an accident to police, then:

  1. he can be charged with an infraction, and
  2. hit with a traffic ticket.
california driver's licenses
The DMV’s reporting requirements exist so that it can monitor the driving history of all drivers

3. Why is it necessary for a motorist to report a collision to the DMV?

The DMV's reporting requirements exist so that it can:

  1. monitor the driving history of all drivers, and
  2. do so to determine if any are negligent operators.

Under the negligent operator treatment system (NOTS), DMV can declare drivers a “negligent operator” if they get enough “points” on their driving record. A motorist will receive points on his DMV record for such things like:

The DMV can do the following if a person earns enough points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period:

  1. declare him a negligent operator, and
  2. suspend, or even, revoke, his driving privileges.

Note that a driver can challenge a suspension or revocation at a DMV hearing.

4. How does a person report a collision?

Motorists report a traffic accident to the DMV via a Form SR-1.5

The form allows a driver to:

  • identify the parties involved,
  • communicate whether any injuries were involved, and
  • indicate if any damages were greater than $1,000.

California law says that all parties to an accident must file a SR-1. This is true no matter who caused the collision.6

5. Does a person have to report a collision to his/her insurance company?

California law does not require a driver to report an accident to an insurance company.

But most insurance policies state that the insured driver should:

  • report an accident,
  • soon after it happens.

If no report is made in a reasonable time, then:

  1. the insurance company can deny coverage to the insured, and
  2. do so if the insured was responsible for the crash.

Insurance companies encourage reporting so that they can start defending a claim.

For additional help...

california traffic attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a California personal injury attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. Please also see our article on steps to take after a car accident in California.


Legal References:

  1. DMV website - Traffic Accident Report SR 1.

  2. See same.

  3. California Vehicle Code 20008.

  4. See same.

  5. DMV website – Traffic Accident Report SR-1.

  6. See same.

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