What Happens If I Don’t Report My Car Accident?


You’ve just had your second fender-bender this year and you’d rather not inform the DMV and your auto insurance company. The other driver has less damage than your vehicle and he’s cool with not notifying either one as well. Or, so he says.

While this may seem like the perfect way to avoid another increase in your car insurance premiums and having more negative points on your driving record, it may actually turn out to be a big mistake.

First, you may want to consider the possible ramifications and penalties that await you for failing to report a car accident in California before making a snap decision. In short, you have a legal obligation to report accidents that fall under certain guidelines.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), California law requires traffic accidents occurring on a California street, highway or private property to be reported within 10 days of the incident, regardless of who’s at fault. Not reporting the accident within the allotted time period by filing an SR-1 form with the DMV could lead to the suspension of your driver’s license.


Close up of a accident report with pen and calculator

Accident guidelines that require the filing of a report

The law states you are required to file the SR-1 if:

  • There is clearly damage in excess of $750 to the vehicles or other property.
  • Injury or death to any party in either vehicle results from the accident.

Furthermore, the DMV states:

“This report must be made in addition to any other report filed with a law enforcement agency, insurance company, or the California Highway Patrol (CHP) as their reports do not satisfy the state filing requirements.”

Your plans to avoid reporting the accident could also take a turn for the worse, in the event your vehicle becomes disabled – making it no longer drivable – and blocking lanes of traffic. Under this scenario, it’s more than likely law enforcement personnel will be dispatched to the scene to get you towed. And, you can rest assured the responding officer will file an accident report himself, which will automatically go to the DMV.

Of course, certain circumstances could prevent you from making the report within the required 10 days, such as having been injured in the accident. Should that be the case, a passenger riding in your vehicle could file the report for you or have a third party, including an attorney, make it for you.


A form from the DMV suspending a driver's license.

Penalties for not reporting an accident in California

Failure to report a “reportable” accident typically results in suspension of your driving privilege.

However, according to California law, should you have an accident and leave the scene without complying with any portion of California Vehicle Code Section 20002, you could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of up to six months, or be fined up to $1,000, or both.

Keep in mind – just because the other driver initially agreed to bypass his or her auto insurance company and not file a report with the DMV, doesn’t mean they won’t have a change of heart if they find out the damage to their vehicle is more extensive than they originally thought. If you exchanged insurance or driver’s license information along with your phone number, you could be staring at a very scary outcome.

Not only could the driver of the other car lay all the blame on you for the accident, he could report the fender-bender to his auto insurance company, claiming you left the scene after hitting him. As things continue to spiral against you, your insurance company will undoubtedly find out and could get really grumpy if the “agreeable driver” files a damage claim against you through them for an unreported accident.

As unpleasant as it may be to report a minor accident to your auto insurer and the DMV, it could save you a lot more, including policy cancellation, a fine and/or six months in jail – even a lawsuit. In the end, it really isn’t worth the risk.

Weighing all your options is always important when shopping for car insurance. Finding the best auto insurance rates requires research. So, why not get a free auto insurance quote today?