Thousands of car accidents occur nationwide every day, and a great many of these are “fender benders” causing no injuries and little or no property damage. In one of these seemingly minor accidents, you may wonder whether or not you are required to report your car accident. California requires drivers to report car accidents if any of the following factors occur:

  • Someone dies in the accident,
  • Someone was injured in the accident,
  • Property damage of more than $1,000 (as of 2017) occurred in the accident.

While these factors seem straightforward, they can be confusing to apply in practice. Some injuries such as whiplash, for example, can take several hours or even a day to fully manifest, so you may not be aware you were injured until after you leave the accident scene. Likewise, it can be difficult to assess just how much the damage to your vehicle is going to cost—but bills for auto body work and other repairs can add up quickly.

What should you do? When in doubt, start by moving the people and vehicles involved in the accident to safety. Then, call 911 or your local emergency number, or ask a bystander to do so if you are unable to. Get the contact information of the other driver, including their insurance info.

If you’re involved in a “hit and run” accident in which the other driver collides with you, then leaves the scene, call the police immediately even if it appears you weren’t injured or the property damage was minor. Hit and run is more than an inconvenience—it’s illegal, and the police will have the best chance of catching the other driver if they start as soon as possible after the accident.

If you’re injured in a car accident in California, an experienced car accident attorney can help you understand your legal rights, complete any necessary paperwork, and manage negotiations with insurance companies and responsible parties in order to improve your chances of securing the full and fair compensation you need.