How long do I have to file a report of traffic accident?

Being involved in a traffic accident can be a frightening experience, especially if you're not sure what the proper procedure is for reporting the event. Typically, a report is only necessary if the car crash involves physical injury to one or more parties or a certain dollar amount of property damage. However, if you do need to file a report, you usually only have a few days to do so. For example, Oregon requires a report of traffic accident if it results in injury, death, or more than $1,500 of damage within 72 hours. A report is needed even if you had no passengers and were the only vehicle involved in the crash.

All drivers involved in the accident must generally file a report with the DMV office. If you are unable to file the report because of an injury and you had a passenger with you at the time of the accident, he or she can usually file the report on your behalf.

If you find that you are legally required to file an accident report, you should not admit any responsibility for the accident. Even if you suspect the accident was your fault, do not state this until you've had a chance to talk to your insurance agent.

In addition to asking about the circumstances surrounding the accident, an official report will also want a listing of your injuries and/or property damage. Remember to list every possible occurrence, not just the most obvious results of the accident. For example, a pain in your lower back that seems fairly minor at the time of the accident may turn out to be a sign of something more serious. If you forget to mention this injury in the report, you may not be able to get your medical expenses covered.

It is a good idea to make a copy of the traffic accident report before you submit it to your state's DMV office. You may need this information for your insurance company or for your own reference if someone contacts you with follow-up questions.

When in doubt about whether or not to report a traffic accident, it's best to be cautious. Many states have stiff penalties for failing to report and accident. Illinois drivers, for example, face a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail for failing to report accidents causing death, bodily injury, or more than $1,500 of property damage.

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