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Can You File a Car Accident Claim Without a Police Report?

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There is no federal or California state law that says you must have a police report in order to file a personal injury or insurance claim after a motor vehicle accident. However, in some situations, it may be in your best interests to have one anyway. A police report can be valuable evidence, especially if there is a liability dispute or if you were too injured to get all the information you need. You may not be able to get an official report as the police do not always come to the scene of every accident. However, it is often possible to file a report online with the local law enforcement office afterwards.


Do I Have to File a Police Report After a Car Accident?

According to California state law, traffic accidents must be reported to law enforcement and the Department of Motor Vehicles under the following circumstances:

  • If there are injuries
  • If there are any fatalities
  • If there is property damaged over $1k

The accident needs to be reported to the police or highway patrol within 24 hours of the accident. The DMV form used on such occasions is called an SR-1 and must be filed within ten days of the date of the accident. Failure to file an SR-1 report when required may result in suspension of your driver’s license. The SR-1 can also be filed by a representative, which means a car accident lawyer can file the proper forms on your behalf. An attorney can also help obtain a copy of the police report, guide you on how to file one online, and advise you on how to move forward if there is no police report.


Why a Police Report Matters After a Car Accident

A police report is an unbiased official account of the accident that is generally respected by insurance companies as valid evidence. If there is a liability dispute, the police report and the assessment made by the officer can be used to determine who was at fault. The report may also contain witness statements and details that the parties involved were not able to obtain on their own. After a hit and run, a police report can be helpful not only as evidence, but also as a way to facilitate an investigation. Although police reports are not mandatory for a personal injury claim, there are many ways in which they can be beneficial to you and your case.


What Types of Situations Might Not Get Police Intervention

Sometimes, even if you report an accident to the police, they might not send an officer to the scene. Different areas have different protocols for this, but it is often dependent on the severity of the accident. Reasons why police may not come to the scene of an accident can include:

  • There was minimal damage
  • There were no injuries
  • The drivers are able to safely move their vehicles on their own
  • The parties are willing and able to exchange information unassisted

Even in these situations, it is still best to report the accident to the police at the time or fill out an incident report with them online afterwards.


What Should You Do if the Police Don’t Come to the Scene of the Accident?

After any motor vehicle accident, there are many important steps that should be taken.

  • Pull over to a safe location if possible
  • Take photos of the scene and damage
  • Take photos of other driver’s license, registration, and insurance information
  • Get contact information from any witnesses
  • Seek medical attention
  • Report the accident to your insurance
  • Call an attorney if you are injured

Can You Still File a Report with the Authorities?

If you do not call the police, or they do not send an officer to the scene, there are still ways to report the accident to the proper authorities. Sometimes, an officer may arrive, but not fill out an official accident report. Instead, they may make an incident report that simply acknowledges that a motor vehicle accident occurred, the date and time, and the parties involved. Most police and sheriff departments will also have a way for you to fill out your own report online. If anyone was injured or if there is more than $1,000 worth of property damage, you will also need to report the accident to the DMV.

Can You File a Claim Without a Police Report to Your Insurance?

While insurance companies would prefer to have a police report on file, especially if there was major damage, they do not necessarily need to have one to open a car insurance claim. Of course, the more information and evidence you have, the easier it will be to move forward without any kind of police report. If you are filing a personal injury claim, it is also best to speak with an attorney. They can help advise you on what to do and even open the claims and handle the insurance companies for you. If your injuries prevented you from remaining at the scene and you are unsure if a police report was filed or do not know how to obtain a copy of it, your attorney can help find that for you as well.


Does Insurance Cover an Accident Without a Police Report?

The reason insurance companies want to have a police report is because it is strong hard evidence of the facts of the accident. They trust the report to be unbiased and factual, which makes it a valuable tool when investigating a claim or determining liability. However, if there is no police report, they can still conduct their own investigation and make decisions without it. Having a personal injury attorney is often beneficial because they can assist with that investigation process by gathering all of the relevant evidence and information to relay to the insurance companies.


Can You Sue Someone for a Car Accident Without a Police Report?

There is no federal or California state law that prohibits you from filing a civil lawsuit for a motor vehicle accident without a police report. It is not mandatory for there to be any kind of police testimony in that situation. However, as with insurance companies, the court respects official reports and assessments made by law enforcement. If the case involves a trial by jury, they may be more likely to trust the word of an officer more than that of the involved parties. Once again, having a police report is not required, but it can be very beneficial for strengthening your case. If an officer did arrive on the scene to document that the accident occurred but did not conduct a full report, they can still be called in during the litigation process to provide their testimony of what they observed.


How to Prove Liability in a Car Accident Without a Police Report

The reason a police report is helpful is because it is solid evidence documenting the facts of the accident. Insurance companies will generally defer to an assessment of liability made by law enforcement officers. If you do not have a police report, you may still have other forms of strong evidence that prove liability. Some examples of valuable evidence that can prove liability include but are not limited to:

  • Dashcam footage
  • Nearby security footage
  • Red light cameras
  • Firsthand witness statements
  • Photos of the accident scene
  • Admissions of fault
  • Toxicology reports
  • Right-of-way laws
  • Property damage evaluations
  • Expert witness testimony

Collecting Evidence for Your Claim

If you do not have a police report, you can collect most of the necessary information and evidence on your own. This is generally much easier if you have a personal injury lawyer to help you since they know what could be useful and are better able to request and obtain some official documents. You can take photos and videos at the scene and compile things like medical records and proof of income loss. It is also important to document as many details from the accident as possible, such as:

  • Driver and vehicle information of the other party
  • Time of day and weather conditions
  • Road conditions, traffic flow, hazards, and obstacles
  • The placement, direction, and speeds of the parties
  • Any traffic lights, signals, or signage
  • Anything said or done by the other party afterwards
  • Contact information for any witnesses


How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Claim?

In the state of California, the usual statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of the injury or two years from the date that the injury was discovered. This means that if you were injured in a car accident on January 20th, the statute of limitations begins counting from January 20th. However, if you were in an accident on January 20th and did not realize that you had been injured until February 4th, the statute of limitations begins counting from February 4th. If the other party involved is a government agency, then the statute of limitations is 6 months. Other types of personal injury claims may have their own specific statute of limitations and related deadlines, so it is important to speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.


If a Police Report Was Filed, Can I Get a Copy of It?

You have a right to obtain a copy of the police report filed for an accident you were involved in. Sometimes, the officer may be able to produce a copy at the scene. If not, they will give you a card or paper with information such as the report number, their name or badge number, the name and contact information for their station, and possibly information on how to go about requesting a copy of the report. Depending on the details of the situation and the amount of investigation that needs to be done by law enforcement, it may take some time for the report to be generated and made available. This is one of the things your lawyer can assist you with or handle for you.


Contact Mesriani Law Group if You Have Been in a Car Accident

Gathering evidence and building a case for a personal injury claim after a car accident can be a difficult and stressful experience for anyone. Without a police report, it may be even more complicated and difficult to obtain the necessary information. Having a personal injury attorney gives you someone in your corner who can guide you through the process and do most of the heavy lifting. They know what is needed to build a strong case and have ways of obtaining documents and information you might otherwise not be able to access. Our firm has years of experience fighting for our clients and helping them receive the best possible compensation for their losses. If you have been injured in a car accident, call Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation.


Car Accident Police Report FAQs

Do you need a police report for a fender bender in California?

If you are in a motor vehicle accident that results in only minor property damage and there are no injuries, it may not be necessary to involve the police or make an official report. In fact, even if you do call, many law enforcement agencies will not even send someone out in these situations unless there are extenuating circumstances. For example, a minor accident occurring in the middle of a multilane freeway may require police assistance in moving the vehicles to a safer location. If there are multiple parties involved or the parties are unable to cooperate, an officer may be sent to help facilitate the collection and exchange of information.

How long after an accident can you file a police report in California?

If you do not or cannot report your car accident to law enforcement immediately after it occurs, you may still do so later, either over the phone or online. In California, you have 24 hours to report a motor vehicle accident to the police. However, it is only mandatory to do so if the accident resulted in injuries, fatalities, or major property damage.

About the Author
Picture of Rodney Mesriani
Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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