Do All Car Accidents Have to be Reported to the Police?
Calling the police to report a serious accident is almost automatic. Even if no one has been injured, people tend to phone the police immediately after seeing significant damage to their vehicles. However, what if no one has been harmed and the damage to the cars is minimal?
Motorists often question the need to involve law enforcement when there is little to no damage. Minor collisions are often referred to as “fender benders.” A fender bender is one of the most common types of car accidents. Typically, fender benders happen at busy intersections when there are multiple lanes of traffic.
Minor car accidents are also common in parking lots. People may back out of a parking space without checking their blind spot and hit a car behind them. Waiting in line at a drive-thru restaurant is another popular place prone to minor accidents. Drivers may get impatient or distracted and fail to hold the brake down properly, sending them into the car ahead.
While most minor car accidents do not cause injuries, they may cause slight property damage. It is important to know when you are legally bound to call and file a report with the police. It is equally important to know when it is in your best interests to report an accident when you are not legally bound to do so.
When Do I Need to Report a Car Accident to the Police in New Orleans?
States vary on when to call in and report a car accident. In Louisiana, motorists are required to call law enforcement for an automobile accident when the following criteria are met:
- The car accident results in injury or death
- The collision causes more than $500 in property damage
- The accident was caused by a hit-and-run
- The car accident involves an intoxicated or impaired driver
If the damage to vehicles and related property is under $500, the incident must be reported within 24 hours to the local police station for the following conditions:
- The car accident results in injury or death
- The property damage exceeds $100
A written report of the car accident must be sent to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC). Filing the report must meet specific guidelines and time constraints. If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision meeting any of the above conditions, you are lawfully obliged to submit the following information:
- File an accident report with local law enforcement and send a copy of the report to the Louisiana DPSC within 24 hours.
- Make sure to include full names, addresses, driver’s license, and permit numbers
- List car insurance information, including company and policy number
- Include registration numbers and license plate numbers
- A detailed description of the accident (i.e., weather conditions, road conditions, time of day, location, witnesses)
Make sure you describe everything in detail in a clear and organized manner. If the Louisiana DPSC is not satisfied with the report, they may order a supplemental accident report. A supplemental accident report will request that specific information be provided before accepting your report.
Regardless of whether there was property damage or not, all drivers are required to exchange information between themselves. Be sure all parties involved in the car accident trade names, car insurance information, license plates, and contact information.
What Are the Penalties for Not Reporting a Car Accident in Louisiana?
Failing to report a motor vehicle accident to the New Orleans police department can result in heavy fines and penalties, including:
- If the accident yielded no injury or damage, the fine is $25.00
- If the collision caused injury or damage, the commissioner may suspend your license for 30 days
- If a person includes false information in the accident report or commits forgery, the penalty is $1,000 and possibly 1 year in jail
In many cases, when there is little to no damage, one or both drivers do not want to involve local police or file any report. People often try to avoid accident reporting because they believe their insurance rates will increase, or they believe they can work out something between the drivers without involving the insurance company.
Keep in mind that every insurance policy requires policyholders to report any car accident as quickly as possible. If you fail to uphold your contractual obligations with your insurance company, you may face significant penalties and complications.
Why I Should File a Police Report When It Is Not Required in Louisiana
Suppose you and the other driver have decided to work things out amongst yourselves. When you do not file a police report, you may find yourself in a worse position than before.
Some potential challenges that could arise:
- You or the other driver could go home and realize the damage to your vehicle is more severe than previously thought. If the other driver agrees to pay for damages but backs out when the property damage is more expensive, how can you recover your losses?
- Conversely, suppose the other driver files a claim weeks later for an injury or damage to their vehicle despite your verbal agreement. In that case, your insurance company may deny you protection for failing to report the collision. Your insurance company may even increase your rates considerably as a penalty.
- You or the other driver may find out you have injuries or that they are worse than you had thought. Car accidents are notorious for causing delayed injuries. Adrenaline can mask symptoms, delaying them for hours, days, or weeks. If there is no police report, how can you file a personal injury claim with their insurance to cover your medical expenses?
If the minor car accident only involves your car and happens on your property, so long as there are no injuries, it may be acceptable not to report the incident.
Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys in New Orleans, Louisiana to Secure Your Compensation
If you are involved in a car accident and are unsure if you should call law enforcement and file a report, it is best to file. To avoid a resubmission request, always double-check the report before submitting it to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.