You’re in a car crash for the first time, and now, you have to figure out what to do. Before this, you might’ve heard about the general process. You tell the police and your insurance company, right? Yes. You have to report the accident to authorities. Then, it’s usually best to let your insurer know.
Reporting the accident might seem like an unnecessary, bureaucratic step. But it’s more than that. It’s the start of building a claim for compensation. That’s important when you’re hurt and have medical bills due.
A Brief Overview
Here are the essential facts you need to know:
- Do I have to report a car accident? If the crash caused property damage, injury, or death, yes. Report it.
- How do I report an accident? Call the police. The officer who comes to the scene will investigate and file a police crash report.
- What if the police don’t come to the scene? You can report accidents to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
- Do I need to tell my insurance company? We recommend you do, yes. If you don’t, you might lose the right to use your policy.
Read on for more answers to your questions.
Do I Have to Report a Car Accident in Virginia?
Virginia law requires motorists to report most accidents.
To start with, you’re required to stop after a collision. Under Virginia Code Section 46.2-894, any driver involved in an accident that causes injury, death, or property damage has to stop close to the scene. You have to help anyone who needs it and exchange information. It also says to report your name, address, driver license number, and vehicle registration number to local or state police.
Failing to stop at an accident (hit and run) leads to Class 1 misdemeanor or Class 5 felony charges.
What if you know about a hit and run? If you are at least 16 years old and were in the car when someone didn’t stop after an accident, you have to report the crash to the police, based on Section 46.2-895.
Take a look at Section 46.2-371 too. It says a driver of any vehicle involved in an accident that causes injury or death must immediately tell a law enforcement officer. Practically speaking, that means calling 911 right after the crash.
Failing to report an accident to the police is a Class 4 misdemeanor.
Section 46.2-372 says anyone involved in an accident involving injury, death, property damage, or an uninsured driver has to make a written report.
You can see there are several laws about reporting accidents to the police. If you were part of a crash, assume you need to report it.
What About Minor Accidents?
There’s a lot of confusion about whether to report minor accidents only involving property damage. In these situations, Virginia law doesn’t require a report.
You typically don’t need to report an accident that doesn’t involve injury or death and that caused property damage worth less than $1,500. You also don’t have to report accidents that took place on private property.
We recommend you make a report anyway. You can call the police’s non-emergency number and ask for an officer to come to the scene and make a report.
Do I Make the Report Myself or Do the Police Do It?
You’re probably wondering whether you have to make a report after being in an accident, calling 911, and talking with the police at the crash. The answer is no. The police officer does it.
Under Section 46.2-373, any officer who investigates a crash involving injury, death, or property damage worth at least $1,500 has to complete a written report within 24 hours.
You’ll have to make a report if the police don’t respond to the crash. This can happen for minor accidents on private property. The police might decline to come out even if you call.
Report the crash to the DMV by submitting an accident report (FR200) an information request form (CRD-93), and $8.00.
How Long Do I Have to Report?
You should report the accident as soon as possible. Don’t wait weeks unless you’re dealing with catastrophic injuries.
Our best advice is to inform the police within 24 hours if they didn’t come to the crash scene. See a doctor and get home safely first. Then make your report.
How Do I Get a Copy of the Police Crash Report?
You can complete an information request form and pay $8.00 for a copy. You can request a copy from the DMV by mail, fax, or in person.
Why Is a Police Report Important?
First, it’s important because the law requires it. If you don’t report an accident when you’re supposed to, you might face criminal charges.
Second, an accident report is often an important piece of evidence during an insurance claim, workers’ compensation claim, or personal injury lawsuit. Once you report an accident to the police, an officer investigates. The officer gets each driver’s story and might talk with witnesses and take photos. They might give one or both drivers a ticket.
After the initial investigation, the officer completes the police crash report and files it with the DMV.
The crash report sets out the basics of what happened, which can protect you from the other driver trying to lie or say the crash was your fault. It becomes a key piece of evidence in proving the other driver was negligent.
Do I Have to Report a Crash to My Auto Insurance Company?
Whether or not you should report an accident to your insurer depends on a few factors. If it was a minor fender bender with no injuries, you might choose to keep it to yourself. It might be cheaper to pay to repair your car yourself instead of paying your deductible and possibly experiencing higher premiums in the future.
But for anything more serious, we highly recommend you tell your insurer. It doesn’t matter who was at fault for the crash. Even if you expect to get compensation from the other driver’s insurer, tell yours about the accident. Your insurer can contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company directly.
Another benefit is using your insurance. You might have coverage that will help you pay some bills right away. Maybe you have rental car coverage. Maybe your insurer will get your vehicle repaired or send a check for a replacement ASAP. You might even have a policy that will pay for some medical bills.
There are even more potential benefits. When the other driver is at fault, your insurance might provide an attorney to defend you.
When Should I Tell My Insurance?
Notify your insurance company right away. Most policies require notification of an accident within a reasonable time frame. The longer you wait, the more likely an insurer will try to deny your claim.
What Should I Tell My Insurer?
Notifying an insurance company of a crash and talking about the accident are two different things. We recommend you provide notice. All that includes is the basic facts: who, what, when, and where.
We don’t recommend you discuss who was at fault or your injuries. Don’t give a statement or answer too many questions. Don’t ever take responsibility for the accident.
If the insurance adjuster starts to ask questions that you aren’t sure how to answer or whether you should answer, say, “I’m not comfortable answering questions at the moment.” Or you can say, “I’m going to speak with a lawyer before giving a statement.”
You have every right to politely decline to answer questions before you know more and have consulted a personal injury attorney.
Do I Have to Report the Crash to the Other Driver’s Insurer?
No, it’s usually better to tell your insurance company or call a lawyer. Let us contact the other driver’s insurance company.
Here’s why you don’t want to reach out to the other driver’s insurance company: They’ll want you to make a statement and answer questions.
If you do tell the other insurance company, don’t say anything more than the basic facts. Politely refuse to give a statement.
Contact a Virginia Car Accident Lawyer
If you were hurt in an auto accident, you need help with the claims process. You need someone looking out for your best interests. Our team at River Run Law has years of experience helping car accident victims. Call our office at 804-889-0500 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.