When Do I Need To Report A Car Accident?
A typical auto accident occurs in just a fraction of a second. Many accidents only involve minor damage to the vehicles and no immediately apparent personal injuries. Indeed, the parties to the accident may not even bother calling the police or filing any sort of formal accident report.
But what does the law say? Do you actually have to report an accident? If so, what information do you need to provide? And what about notifying your insurance company?
In this article, we will briefly explain some of the law surrounding these issues here in Florida. This is not a comprehensive guide. Nor is it a substitute for a personal consultation with an experienced Broward County car accident attorney.
Reporting an Accident to the Police
Florida law does, in fact, require a driver to report an accident involving their vehicle if there was either (1) injury or death to a person, or (2) at least $500 in estimated damage to a vehicle or other property. If either of these conditions apply to your accident, you need to contact law enforcement as soon as possible. This means if you are a city like Lighthouse Point, you should call the local police department. If you are outside a municipality, however, you should either contact the Florida Highway Patrol or the county sheriff.
There are actually two different types of accident reports, a Long Form and a Short Form. The Long Form is used in the following situations:
- The accident results in death or personal injury to any of the drivers or passengers.
- The accident involved one driver leaving the scene of the crash with an attended vehicle or possible driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The accident rendered any of the vehicles inoperable to the point where it needed to be towed.
- The accident involved a commercial vehicle, such as a semi-truck.
In any accident where a Long Form is unnecessary, the Short Form is used instead. Both forms actually require the same types of basic information, which include:
- The date, time, and location of the accident.
- A description of any vehicles involved in the accident.
- The names and addresses of all parties to the accident, including drivers and passengers, as well as a statement of who was in what vehicle.
- The names and addresses of any known witnesses to the accident.
- An identification of the law enforcement officer investigating the accident, including their name, badge number, and affiliated agency.
- The names of the insurance companies for all parties involved.
What Happens If I Fail to Report an Accident?
Failing to report an accident when required is considered a non-moving traffic violation under Florida law. So you can be fined, although you will normally not face any criminal charges. However, if you “willfully” leave the scene of an accident without waiting for the police or exchanging information with the other driver, you can be charged with a crime. And if the accident involved death or serious injury to another person, leaving the scene is considered a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Is It Beneficial For the Police to Issue an Accident Report?
Yes. The accident report memorializes the incident, including the parties’ address and insurance information. The driver listed on the accident report as “DRIVER #1” is usually considered the at-fault driver. In the event the at-fault driver later “changes their story” or denies even being in the crash, you can point to the accident report to rebut their altered version of events.
If you have further questions and would like to schedule a consultation with a qualified Parkland car accident attorney, contact Lyons & Snyder today.