How Long Do You Have to File a Police Report After a Car Accident?

If you’re ever involved in a car accident, you will likely be quite shaken up, and therefore unable to remember everything you need to do in such a situation.

In fact, most people don’t even know what steps they need to follow or what time frame they have. However, it’s really important that you report the accident in an appropriate way, to the police, and to the insurance company, before it’s too late.

If the car accident that you’re involved in is on the serious side, or anyone has been severely injured, it is likely that the police will be called to the scene anyway, and then they’ll proceed to make their own report without you having to seek them out to do it yourself.

They will take down the necessary details and ask you the necessary questions, and you’ll be able to ask what it is you should do next.

However, in smaller or less serious car accidents, the police aren’t always called to the scene. Should you still file a police report? And if so, how long do you have to file it?

Do you have to file a police report after a car accident?

Before we get into how long you have, timewise, to report a car accident, you need to know whether or not it is necessary for you to actually report it.
If the accident is big, or anyone is injured, the police should be called immediately, along with any medical attention needed.
But what about minor accidents? Do you still need to get the police involved?

The answer is yes. Even if you’re involved in a very minor car accident, you should still file a report to the police. Why? For a few different reasons:

To have the events properly documented

A car accident might sometimes look like it’s a lot less than what it actually is. During the following days after a car accident, you could suddenly discover that there is a lot more damage to your car than you thought, or that you’re a lot more injured than you suspected.

It’s important, therefore, to have an official police report with all the events stated, so your insurance policy or doctor know exactly what happened. Especially as you will likely begin to forget the smaller details, which could be very important!

To be on the safe side

You might be in agreeance with the other person involved in the car accident then and there, but you don’t know what they’ll say afterward.

It’s important for you to have filed an official police report, so that the police have a record of the events, as they happened, and not as they might be recounted later on.

For your car insurance or others

Sometimes, your car insurance might require an official report of the accident, in order to accept your insurance claim. Make sure you read the insurance policy so that you know exactly what you need to have and do!

You should also check whether there’s a time limit for the report or claim, as each insurance will have a different policy and rules. A police report not only states everything that happened in the accident and how it was caused, but it can also be used as official evidence that it took place.

For legal reasons

If both parties involved in the accident exchange the necessary information and contact details and leave them in agreement, then there’s no need to get the police involved.

However, leaving a car accident sight without having provided your details to the other party, is completely illegal. And not reporting an accident can, in some cases, be considered a criminal offense. So to be on the safe side, no matter how minor the accident is, file a police report.

How long do you have to file a police report after a car accident?

Okay, so we’ve established that you should indeed file a police report when you’re involved in a car accident, no matter how minor it is. But how long do you have to do so? What is the time frame allowed?

24 hours. All traffic accidents need to be properly reported within the first 24 hours after the accident takes place. And the same time frame tends to be applied to insurance companies too. So basically, make sure you’ve reported and sorted everything out within 24 hours.

This is because it’s important to report the accident with your memory being as fresh as possible, so that you don’t forget any important details, or you don’t confuse the events. Ideally, you should report the accident straight away, or as soon as you get home after the events have taken place.

How to file a police report after a car accident:

So you have 24 hours to file a police report after a car accident that you’re involved in has taken place, no matter how minor. But how do you do it?

If the police are called to the scene of the accident, you will probably file a report there and then, as they will want to ask you several questions and they will take down your details so that everything is down on record. If this is the case, you shouldn’t have to worry about calling the police to provide any further information, unless they tell you as such.

If the police aren’t called to the accident, then you have to contact them to file your own report. There are different ways you can do this:

Visit a police station

If you feel more comfortable talking to the police in person, and you are able to go to a nearby police station, then you can probably do so as such.

Just inform them that you are there to file a car accident report, and they will guide you through the different steps until it is completed.

Call the police on their non-emergency number

The easiest way to file a police report is by phoning them. The police will have a non-emergency number so that you can phone them and ask them to file an accident report.

They will take your details and information, and you can then recount the full events over the phone.

Check the official police website for any other ways in which you can file an accident report

There might be other ways in which you can file a police report for a car accident.

Check the official police website, and check whether there are any other methods. Choose whichever you feel the most comfortable using, and remember to do it within those first 24 hours.

In Conclusion

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, even if it’s a minor one, you should file a police report so that everything is on record and officially documented.

You need to file the police report within the first 24 hours after the accident, and you can do so in different ways. They will guide you through all the details and information you need to provide, and then you should be good to go!