No one expects to be in a car accident, but you’ll need to quickly make some critical decisions when it happens. One of the most important is whether to contact the police from the scene of the accident.
Are you required to file a police report after an accident in Florida? And will your insurance company accept a claim if you don’t? Here’s a quick look at the answers to these questions and more.
Are You Required to File a Police Report in Florida?
In the state of Florida, you are legally required to report an accident if any of the following apply:
- Someone is injured or killed (driver, passenger, pedestrian, bystander, etc.)
- The accident was a hit-and-run
- An intoxicated driver caused the accident
- The accident resulted in property damage of over $500 (including damage to the vehicle)
If the accident was minor and none of the above scenarios apply, it’s acceptable to trade insurance information with the other driver and forego calling the police. However, you may want to think twice before making this decision.
Remember that once everyone leaves the accident scene, it will likely be too late to file a report. Later, if the other driver decides to sue you for medical issues or vehicle damage, you won’t have an official record of the facts surrounding the accident. It will be your word against theirs, and if they have a skilled attorney, you could end up being held liable even if it wasn’t your fault.
How to File a Police Report
If you have a reportable accident, Florida law requires you to contact law enforcement immediately, using the fastest form of communication. You’ll want to contact the local police if the accident occurs within a municipality. Otherwise, contact the county sheriff’s office or the Florida Highway Patrol.
Calling the police and orally reporting that an accident occurred is enough to satisfy your duty to report. However, suppose you notify the police, and they do not investigate. In that case, you are required to submit a written “crash report” to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) within ten days of the accident.
Penalties for Failing to Report an Accident
If you fail to report a vehicle accident that meets one of the criteria listed above, you could face a $30 penalty. The charge is not criminal and there is no jail time associated with this offense.
However, if you leave the scene of a serious accident without reporting it to the police, the penalties could be much steeper. If there were bodily injuries, death, or extensive property damage, leaving the scene could be a criminal offense and result in jail time. In most cases, making the call and reporting the accident is best. Since there’s no minimum injury specification, even a minor bruise could be considered a physical injury. It’s almost always in your best interest not to take any chances.
Do You Need a Police Report to File an Insurance Claim?
Since a police report isn’t always required in Florida, you can typically file an insurance claim without one. However, having an official police report can help support your case. In addition, a claim without a police report may take longer to process and settle. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to call the police.
Consulting with an attorney can make a significant difference in your compensation if you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident. At Gallagher & Hagopian, we offer free case reviews either in-person or by video chat. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.