Who to Contact After a Car Accident

The law of the state where the accident happened determines what reports must be made after a car accident. Typically, reports should be filed with police, your insurance company, and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Police or other law enforcement: If the accident causes a personal injury or when property damage exceeds a certain dollar amount, such as $500, you are required to report the accident to police. Officers may take reports over the phone, but sometimes you have to make those reports in person at the police station.

Your insurance company: Most auto insurance companies require their policyholders to promptly report a car accident. The time frame can be VERY short and failure to notify the insurance company within that time frame may result in a denial of coverage. Check your insurance policy to see what notice requirements apply to you.

The insurance company will want all of the basic information to help its investigation - and sometimes may want a recorded statement. However, it may be prudent to contact an attorney before giving a recorded statement - especially if you believe that the insurance company is recording the information in order to deny your claim. See How to Report Your Car Accident to the Insurance Company for more.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): State DMV offices usually keep accident reports on file. For example, California requires every driver involved in an accident causing personal injury or property damage in excess of $500 to file an SR-1 form. Typically, a DMV report must be filed within five or ten days of the accident. If you fail to report to the DMV, your driver's license could be taken away, regardless of fault. If you or someone else was injured in the accident, it may help to consult an auto accident attorney before filing the DMV report.