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When To Report An Auto Accident To The DMV

In addition to reporting an auto accident to the police department and your insurance company, some states also require you to file a report under certain circumstances with their Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or similar regulating body. 

Read below to find out when you must file an accident report your local DMV office and tips on how to file an accurate report. 

Which Accidents Must Be Reported?

The laws for reporting accidents to the DMV vary from state to state.

In general, you may have to report an accident to the DMV if:

  • The property damage exceeds a specified amount.
    • Examples:
      • In New York, all involved drivers must make a report to the New York DMV if the property damage for any person is greater than $1,000.
      • Oregon requires you to file a report if damage to your vehicle was $2,500 or more, or if damage to any vehicle in the accident was $2,500 or more AND any vehicle was towed from the scene.
  • Someone was injured or killed in the accident.
    • Most states require a DMV report if any person was injured or killed in the accident, regardless of the severity of the injury.
  • Other state-specific requirements.
    • Some states may have regulations that go beyond vehicle damage amount and personal injury.
      • Example: In Wisconsin, any accident that causes more than $200 of damage to government property other than a motor vehicle must be reported.

Who Must File a DMV Accident Report?

State laws also vary with regard to who must file a report with the DMV after an auto accident.

While the police are often held responsible for filing a report, you may need to file your own report to the DMV in certain situations, including the following:

  • The police are unable to file a report.
    • Example: In Wisconsin, drivers only have to file a report with the DMV if the police cannot make the report.
  • One or more cars had to be towed after the accident.
    • Example: In Oregon, only the driver of a vehicle that sustained more than $2,500 in damage must make a report, unless any vehicle involved had to be towed from the scene. In that case, all drivers involved are required to file a report with the DMV.
  • The report won’t be filed for some time.
    • Example: In New Hampshire, responsibility for reporting to the DMV falls on the police if they respond to an accident involving more than $1,000 in combined property damage, personal injury, or death. The DMV notes, however, that police reports may not be filed for some time, so drivers may file an operator's report to assist an insurance claim.

When Must the Report Be Filed?

As with other aspects of reporting requirements, deadlines for filing DMV accident reports vary among states. You may be required to submit your report within a matter of hours, or you may have weeks.

If you're involved in an accident with property damage or personal injury, you should  check with your state DMV to make sure you comply.

Where to Get the Required Forms

Every state has specific forms to be used in reporting a car accident to the DMV. You can usually pick up the forms at the DMV or your local police station.

In some states, such as New York, you can print blank DMV accident forms from your computer and mail them to the specified address.

Penalties for Failure to Report Car Accidents

Most states impose stiff penalties for failure to make a required report when you have had a car accident.

You may be required to pay a fine or may even face  suspension of your driver’s license. In California, for example, if your collision requires an accident report form and you fail to complete it within 10 days, your driving privileges will be suspended.

Tips for Filing DMV Accident Reports

To make sure you have everything you need after an accident, make sure to do the following:

  • Always file a DMV accident report if another involved driver is uninsured.
  • File the report as soon as possible after the accident.
  • Include as much detail as possible in your report.
  • Keep a copy of the report for your own records.
  • If you are not required to file a report but the police were involved, request a copy of the report filed by the police for your records.

As always, if you’re unsure what you should do, contact your  local DMV office and ask about the requirements for accident reports. Also, contact your car insurance company right away to get the claims process started and clarify which documents you’ll need to show for a smooth process. 

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