Accident Guide in California

In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a traffic accident there is much you need to know.

Stop and Assess the Situation

First, stop and assess the situation. Are there any injuries or death? Investigate the extent of the damage, and call for assistance if necessary. In California, failure to stop at the scene of an accident in which you are involved could result in serious criminal hit-and-run charges.

You must stop to assess the situation even when the accident involves merely damaging property or running into a parked car. If you hit a parked car or damage someone's property, but are unable to locate the owner, leave a note with your name and address, as well as the name and address of the owner of the automobile you are driving, secured to the vehicle or property damaged.

You will also be responsible for reporting the accident to the police or to the California Highway Patrol (in an unincorporated area).

When animals are involved don't take your responsibility any more lightly. Again, pull over. Try to find the owner. If the owner cannot be found call the Humane Society, the police, or the Highway Patrol.

What You Will Have to Show

Once you assess the accident, you must your show driver license, registration card, evidence of financial responsibility, and current address to others involved and any peace officers present.

If you cannot show proof of financial responsibility, namely from an insurance company with a current policy number, you face a potential citation and fine.

Serious Accidents

An accident must be reported to the DMV within 10 days when someone is killed, injured, or property damage exceeds $1,000.

To report an accident to the DMV you, your insurance agent, or legal representative must complete the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (Form SR-1).

You must also submit an SR-1 in addition to other filings the insurance companies, police, and other administrative agencies require. In order to fill out the SR-1 you need to gather important information at the scene of the accident:

  • Place and time of accident.
  • Other driver's name, address, and date of birth.
  • Other driver's driver license information(#/State).
  • Other driver's license plate number and state.
  • Other driver's insurance company, policy number, and the expiration thereof.
  • Policy holder's name and address.
  • Vehicle owner's name and address.
  • Explanation of injuries or property damage.

The DMV SR1 is also required regardless of whether the accident occurred on private property or was caused by someone else.

Failure to file a necessary Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (Form SR-1) or failure to show proof of financial responsibility may result in the suspension of your license.

Unless the officer finds the other driver at fault, any accident the police report to the DMV will go on your driving record.

Removed your vehicle from the street or highway

Don't forget to have your vehicle removed from the street or highway. Failure to do so may result in your vehicle being towed or impounded.

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