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Do I Need a Police Report?

By Eugene Bruno on January 11, 2012

The answer depends on the facts and circumstances of the particular accident. However, for most minor accidents, you may not need a police report. For example, if no one is injured, the damage is minor, and all drivers are insured, then a police report is probably unnecessary. In those cases, a simple exchange of information should be sufficient.

These days, this means documenting as much as possible with photos. The more photos, the better. At a minimum, you should take photos of all parties’ driver’s licenses and insurance cards, as well as vehicle license plates and any accident related damage to the vehicles. If it appears another party is driving a company owned vehicle, be sure to take photos of any signs or logos on the vehicle. If there are witnesses, get their phone numbers and take photos of their driver’s licenses. Photos of the scene may help to explain to your insurance company or a lawyer just how the accident happened. Finally, if you see any other evidence, such as skid marks, get photos of that evidence too because they can be valuable to prove fault.

If you feel unsafe, if the other driver is uncooperative, or if you suspect the other driver does not have valid insurance or is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should call 911.

The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Accident Investigations Bureau is responsible for on scene traffic accident investigations occurring on City streets. While at the scene, these specially trained officers document all forms of evidence, including the position of the vehicles on the roadway, skid marks, initial contact location (usually determined by broken glass or other debris on the roadway), witness statements, etc. They use this evidence to determine the cause of the crash, who is at fault, the speed of the vehicles involved, etc. However, they only investigate fatal or serious injury collisions, collisions involving felony prosecutions (such as DUI), and collisions involving City of San Diego or SDPD property or equipment. SDPD generally will not issue a police report unless one or more persons requires ambulance transport from the scene. In all other cases, SDPD may simply facilitate the exchange of information between all parties. If SDPD does not take a report or respond to the scene, be your own detective and photograph all the necessary evidence to prove your case!

Regardless whether there is or is not a police report, you will likely have to report the accident to California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). California law requires you to report all traffic accidents if there was an injury (even a minor injury), death, or more than $1,000 in property damage within 10 days. A police report does not satisfy your obligation to report the accident to DMV and failure to report an accident to DMV could result in DMV suspending your driver’s license. You can find the DMV accident report Form SR-1 here.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, educate yourself about your rights and get the compensation you deserve. Call today to speak to me about your rights.