How do I file an accident report with the police and the DMV?

The extent of your auto accident will determine whether or not filing a car accident report with the police is required. Usually a fender-bender resulting in minor car damage will not necessitate a police report; but whenever injury or death is involved, a police report becomes mandatory.

You may, depending on your state, also be required to file a car accident report with your DMV.

File an Accident Report With Police

The officer on the scene will initiate the police report process.

When answering his or her questions remain calm and free of judgment. Don't charge the other driver, if applicable, with blame.

And be sure to answer each question truthfully. If asked how fast you were driving, don't say 15 mph when you were operating at 30 mph. The police are experienced with piecing together accident scenes and can easily detect a lie by skid marks, car damage and, of course, other witness accounts.  

File a Car Report With the DMV

If you're involved in a car accident, regardless of how minor, inquire of your local DMV if an accident report is required. Some states, like Oregon for example, require a car accident report within 72 hours of a collision, provided it meets certain criteria in terms of injury, death or damage amounts. In South Carolina, however, only the police handle accident reports--not the DMV.

If you're responsible for filing an accident report, you should be able to download a form from your DMV's website. If not, either try requesting one by phone or picking one up in person from your local DMV office.

Keep in mind that a police report is separate from a DMV accident report. Even though you filed a police report, you will, if your state requires it, also be obligated to file a report with the DMV.

Notifying Your Insurance Company

You will also need to contact your car insurance company, and the sooner the better. Most auto insurance companies, in fact, encourage filing an accident claim from the crash site. Your insurance company will then initiate the claims process by reviewing the police report and interviewing you and all involved drivers and witnesses.

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