Posted on Nov 11, 2011 in Automobiles
I mean, if someone t-bones me in traffic, sure, I understand I should call that one in. But if I just tap someone’s bumper in traffic, does that little “accident” have to be reported to the police or DMV?
There you are, inching along in rush hour traffic, minding your own business — maybe slightly distracted about what’s for dinner tonight — and it happens. Bump. You didn’t catch the guy in front of you stopping in time, and you “kissed” his back bumper. Or maybe it was the other way around. You both pop out of the car and he starts begging you not to call the police, not to report the accident. Well? Do you have to?
Finders Free Legal Team Super Happy Fun Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. I don’t play one on TV or the movies. I’m just a guy who is good at research and likes to write.
Like so many things, this one has a simple, yet technically not simple answer. Let’s start with the simple one:
Each state is different. California law requires “traffic accidents on a California street/highway or private property to be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days if there was an injury, death, or property damage in excess of $750.” New York State law states “if the property damage of any person is $1,001 or more, all the involved drivers are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law” to report the accident, and that “if a person is injured or killed, you are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law to immediately notify the police. All the involved drivers and the police must file an accident report with the DMV.” Failure to do so is a crime.
And so on and so on. Each state has their own laws governing the reporting of traffic accidents, and seeing as they can change from time to time, I don’t feel comfortable listing more than a few examples here. Your best bet is to check your particular state’s department of motor vehicles website for the exact law. It’s also, by the way, a good idea to know this beforehand, so you’re not standing on the side of the road furiously Googling on your smartphone.
The only way to be 100% safe is to report any accident to the DMV, at the very least. That little scuff that might not look like anything on the bumper may hide a damaged part and cost $2000. A day later, your neck may begin hurting and you do end up injured.
Another reason to report the accident, specifically getting the police involved, is if there is any question of fault or any mitigating factors you’d like your insurance company to consider as they determine who is going to pay for all this, a police report will hold a lot of weight. They’re the experts at reconstructing a crash — they’re trained for it. If there’s going to be any question of whose fault it was, it’s not a bad idea to get the police involved.
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