Should you call the police for a minor accident?

Among police-reported crashes, roughly 70% are property damage only. Even though most car accidents are not serious, for both legal and practical reasons, you should still call the police. The laws of each state determine when drivers need to file a report.

New York accident reporting laws

In New York, most traffic accidents need to be reported. If you are involved in an accident in Rockland County, you must report it to the Division of Motor Vehicles if it resulted in:

  • Any bodily injury
  • Death
  • Property damage of more than $1,000

Accidents need to reported within 10 days, using DMV Form MV-104. If there is an injury or death, the police must be notified.

If there is any property damage, no matter the amount, the parties are required to stop and exchange contact and insurance information, as well as driver’s license and license plate numbers. If you hit someone else’s property, including a parked car, you need to try to find the owner. If you cannot, then call the police. If the property damage is more than $1,000, it must be reported to the DMV.

New Jersey accident reporting laws

The threshold requiring a police report is lower in New Jersey. In Bergen County, an accident causing bodily injury, death, or more than $500 in property damage, must be reported.

If it’s only property damage, and the police are not called, the drivers must send a letter to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission Agency within 10 days. The letter should explain what happened in as much detail as possible. If a driver hits a parked car or causes some other property damage– they must try to find the owner. If the owner cannot be found, the driver must leave a note providing their name and address and stating what happened.

Report your accident to the insurance company

State laws do not require you to inform your insurance company about any accidents, but your insurance policy likely does. These policies commonly require prompt notice of accidents or potential claims. If you fail to do so and the insurance company is prejudiced by late notice, it could deny your claim.

Do not underestimate the severity of your accident

After an accident, it might seem easier to not involve the police or your insurance. However, in many cases, accidents cause physical injuries that are not immediately detectable. A slight soreness may be an injury that will require follow-up medical treatment and even rehabilitation.  

Since you cannot always tell a minor accident from a more serious one, it is important to take precautions. Report the accident as required, document the scene with photos and by obtaining the contact information of other drivers and witnesses, and seek medical attention within 24 hours if not sooner.

Protect your health and any legal claim you may have– by taking your accident seriously from the beginning.

Speak with a professional about your accident

In addition, consider speaking with a car accident attorney about your rights and responsibilities. Your attorney can help you comply with state requirements, meet your duty under your insurance policy, and even file a claim if the situation calls for it.

The attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman combine big firm experience and small firm attention to providing high-quality personal representation. Schedule a free consultation with a member of our team as soon as possible to discuss your claim.