How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident in Virginia?
When you drive your car on a daily basis in Virginia, you probably don’t think too much about the possibility of getting into an auto accident. However, even if you are a safe and responsible driver, the reality is that you face the risk of a crash every time you hit the road. In fact, on average, drivers are involved in at least three to four collisions over the course of their lives, according to Forbes.
If you get into a crash, you should know what steps you will need to take, including reporting the accident to the police as well as to your own auto insurance company. As we explain below, in most accidents in Virginia, you need to report the accident immediately after it happens or as soon as reasonably possible. If you fail to report it, you could face serious legal consequences as well as major obstacles to recovering compensation for your injuries and losses.
- 1 When Does Virginia Law Require You to Report a Crash to the Police?
- 2 What Happens If You Don’t Report Your Accident to the Police?
- 3 How Can You Get a Copy of the Police Crash Report?
- 4 Should You Report Your Accident to Your Insurance Company?
- 5 How Can an Experienced Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Help You?
When Does Virginia Law Require You to Report a Crash to the Police?
As a driver in Virginia, you have a legal duty to report an accident in most situations. Under Va. Code § 46.2-894, you must immediately stop at the scene of an accident – or as close to it as possible without obstructing traffic – if the accident involves injury, death, vehicle damage or damage to attending property. (When you pull over, you should do so in a safe area.)
After you stop, you must report your name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number to the State Police or a local law enforcement agency (police or sheriff’s office) and:
- Any person who was struck and injured (if they appear capable of understanding and retaining the information), or
- The driver or some other occupant of the other vehicle, or
- The custodian of the other damaged property.
Under the law, you also have a duty to provide reasonable assistance to anyone who has been injured in the accident, including calling for an ambulance if it appears necessary or if the person asks for it.
If you cannot immediately report the accident to the police because of your injuries, then you must do so as soon as reasonably possible. You also need to make a reasonable effort to locate and report your information to the person struck, driver or occupant of the other vehicle or owner of the damaged property.
Generally speaking, you should stop and call 911 right away if you are in any type of crash – even if you are unsure of whether anyone has been hurt or killed, or if any vehicle or other property has been damaged. By doing so, you will ensure that you meet your legal duty to report the accident. Additionally, an officer can secure the scene, divert traffic, call for emergency medical assistance, collect all relevant information and, ultimately, prepare an official report on the accident.
What Happens If You Don’t Report Your Accident to the Police?
If you fail to stop and report your car accident as Va. Code § 46.2-894 requires, you could face criminal consequences. Under the law, you could be charged with a hit-and-run offense. If the accident resulted in someone’s injury or death or more than $1,000 in property damage, you could face a Class 5 felony charge. If the accident caused property damage of $1,000 or less, your failure to report could result in a Class 1 misdemeanor charge.
The failure to timely report your accident could also affect your ability to collect compensation for your damages. Reporting your accident will lead to the creation of a police crash report. This report will play an important role when you file a claim with the other driver’s auto insurance company or your own insurance provider. It will serve as official documentation of the crash. In fact, most insurance companies will flatly reject any claim if there is no police report.
How Can You Get a Copy of the Police Crash Report?
After the State Police or a local law enforcement agency files a report about your accident to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you should try to obtain a copy of this report. You can go directly to the agency that prepared the report or order a copy from the DMV. To get a copy from the DMV, you can use request form (CRD93) and submit it in person at your local DMV branch, fax it to (804) 367-0390 or mail it to:
Customer Records Work Center, Room 514
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269.
If you have any trouble with getting a copy of your police crash report, you can simply ask your lawyer from Lichtenstein Law Group PLC, to help you. In addition to tracking down your police report, we can gather all other important documents in your case, including your medical records and insurance documents.
Should You Report Your Accident to Your Insurance Company?
In addition to reporting your accident to the police, you should also report your accident to your own insurance company. Your insurance policy may actually require you to file a report within a certain period of time after your crash occurs. Today, most insurance companies have a 24/7 hotline or online form that you can use to make your report.
If you fail to report the accident to your insurance company, it could cost you the ability to file a claim with the insurer down the road. On the other hand, you have no duty to report the accident to any other driver’s insurance company until you file a claim with that company. If someone else’s auto insurance provider contacts you, in fact, the best thing to do is to simply refer the insurer to your attorney.
How Can an Experienced Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Help You?
With almost 100 years of combined litigation experience, our Virginia car accident attorneys at Lichtenstein Law Group PLC, know what it takes to pursue full and fair compensation for our clients. We meticulously prepare each case as if it is going to trial, which allows us to negotiate from a position of strength when we seek settlements on behalf of our clients. To discuss how we can make a difference for you, call or reach us online today and receive a free consultation through our offices in Roanoke or Charlottesville.
John E. Lichtenstein is a founding member of Lichtenstein Law Group, PLC, with more than three decades of experience as a trial lawyer. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, John has successfully resolved hundreds of cases on behalf of his clients, including some of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Virginia history. He has also served his profession, including serving as President of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association in 2015-2016 and as Chair of the Virginia State Bar Criminal Law Section in 2007-2008.