Do You Need to File a Police Report after an Accident?

You don't always need to file a police report after an accident, but doing so may speed up the auto insurance claim process. How long you have to file a police report after an accident varies from state to state, but the sooner you file a police report for an insurance claim the better. If an accident occurs on the street or a highway, police reports are often required but not filing a police report after an accident is an option in most cases.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

Full Bio →

Written by

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Mar 30, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident auto insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one auto insurance provider and cannot guarantee quotes from any single provider.

Our insurance industry partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

Accident-Related Police Reports Summary
Police Reported Accident StatisticsDetailsSource
Average Cost of Traffic Accidents per Year in U.S. $871 billion PBS
Total Motor Vehicle Crashes in 20186,734,000Insurance Information Institute
Unreported Crashes (based on 2014 study)3 out of 10 crashes go unreportedNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Get Your Rates Quote Now
Compare RatesStart Now →

Do you need to file a police report after an accident? Hundreds of minor auto accidents happen each day throughout the United States and lead to the dilemma of what you should do when you get hit by another car as well as understanding auto insurance and how claims work. If you are wondering if you need to file a police report or report the accident to your auto insurance company, this guide is for you.

We will help you determine if a police report can be skipped and the legal issues surrounding not filing a police report. We will also go over when you should file a police report to strengthen your auto insurance claim, such as reporting an accident to the police after the fact, and how to file a police report after an accident.

Do you have to file a police report after an accident? Before you find out, enter your ZIP code to shop for cheap auto insurance using our free tool.

What the Law Says About Not Filing Police Report After an Accident

Do you have to file a police report in an accident? What happens if you don’t file a police report after a car accident? In some cases, it will hurt you if you don’t file a police report, especially if the accident caused serious injuries or damages. Not filing a police report makes it harder to defend your case and find witnesses if you are sued after an accident.

However, there are some instances where you can make an auto accident insurance claim with no police report and it won’t hurt your claim. Keep reading to find out more about state laws for filing police reports, accidents on private property, and more.

What are the state laws for filing police reports?

You may wonder, “are you required to file a police report after an accident in your state?” When it comes to filing a police report after an accident it is important to know your state auto insurance requirements. Each state has different requirements for drivers that answers your question of “Do you need to file a police report for an accident?”

State laws will vary based on the type of accident and where the accident occurred. For example, if you are in a parking lot and you hit an unattended vehicle, many states require that you stay with the vehicle until the owner can be located. If you cannot locate the owner of the vehicle, you must leave a note with your personal information.

However, there are some states that do not require a police report if a minor accident with few damages occurs in a parking lot. Typically these accidents are minor and the people involved know who was at fault and all of the details of the incident can be worked out between the two parties.

If an accident occurs on the street or a highway, police reports are often required. Even if the accident is minor and both drivers can walk away from the incident, the police may be required in order to help auto insurance companies determine fault and help with traffic issues from the accident.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Compare over 200 auto insurance companies at once!

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

How does an auto accident on private property work?

If you crash your vehicle on your own private property, such as backing into your mailbox, you do not need to file a police report. No-one was involved in the accident except for you, and it happened on your property. So if it is only your property that was damaged, you can skip calling the police.

However, you may want to file a police report for an accident on private property if there is an outside party involved. Let’s say that a delivery truck hit your vehicle when it pulled into your driveway. To make sure that the police have a record of who is at fault in this case, you should file a police report.

You may also be liable as a property owner if someone is injured or crashes on your private property. So if anyone other than yourself is involved, it is wise to call the police.

What are other times not to file a police report after a traffic collision?

What happens if you don’t file an accident report after an auto accident or what happens if you don’t call the police after an accident? Usually, the accident can be cleared up by just contacting your insurer. We want to stress again that you need to check your state’s laws for when not filing a police report is permissible.

Typically, however, you can skip out on filing a police report in the following situations:

  • The damage to property is minor and will cost under a few hundred dollars to repair.
  • There are no injuries to either party.
  • There is no damage to the vehicles.
  • You have witnesses to the minor accident.

Let’s say you are in a fender bender. You may wonder, do I need to file a police report for a fender bender? If no-one is injured and the damage is minor, you do not necessarily need to call the police but should collect witness information in case of a later dispute.

Do you need to report the accident to your auto insurance company?

If you are involved in an auto accident of any type, you are contractually obligated to report the accident to your insurer. Almost every auto insurance policy contains a contract clause that requires any and all types of accidents to be reported. However, the contract clause is hard for insurance companies to enforce in all situations.

Keep in mind that even one accident can affect your auto insurance rates, as shown by the table below.
Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates by Driving Record

CompaniesRates with a
Clean Record
Rates With
One Accident
Rates With
One DUI
Rates With One
Speeding Violation
USAA$1,933.68$2,516.24$3,506.03$2,193.25
Geico$2,145.96$3,192.77$4,875.87$2,645.43
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$4,330.24$3,025.74
Nationwide$2,746.18$3,396.95$4,543.20$3,113.68
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$3,636.80$3,186.01
Progressive$3,393.09$4,777.04$3,969.65$4,002.28
Travelers$3,447.69$4,289.74$5,741.40$4,260.80
Farmers$3,460.60$4,518.73$4,718.75$4,079.01
Allstate$3,819.90$4,987.68$6,260.73$4,483.51
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$7,613.48$5,701.26
Get Your Rates Quote Now

Compare RatesStart Now →

If there are no injuries and no real damage to the vehicles, you and the other driver involved in the accident may not call the police to investigate. If a police report is filed, many police precincts do not forward the police report to the driver’s insurance company.

So, do you need to file a police report for an insurance claim? No. With this being said, in most cases, even in a minor accident, you should probably report the accident to your insurance company in case you need to get repairs done.

Compare over 200 auto insurance companies at once!

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Filing a Police Report and Making an Insurance Claim

Many people think that when they are involved in a minor accident that a police report is not necessary. However, if you are planning to seek any type of compensation from the accident, filing a police report will strengthen your case.

Not having adequate documentation of an accident is one of the many reasons why your auto insurance claim might be denied. Keep reading to learn how to file a police report after an accident and make an insurance claim.

What information should I collect at the accident scene for police records?

There are several steps to take after being involved in an accident in order to file a police report. You need to be aware of how to gather evidence for your auto accident claim. First, you will need to phone the police from the area as soon as possible after the accident occurs. Next, when the police arrive you will discuss the details of the accident with one of the police officers that arrive at the scene.

The police officer will interview you, the other driver, as well as any other witnesses who viewed the accident in order to determine what happened. Once the police report is filed it is important to make sure that you obtain a copy of the report. You will need to send a copy of the police report to your insurance company.

What will the police do at the scene of an auto accident?

In addition to providing evidence of an accident, a police report provides an unbiased third-party report about the accident. This can be more effective evidence than the retelling of the story by either you or the other person involved in the accident.

Another important reason to file a police report is that police reports are required by insurance companies if a personal injury lawsuit is filed. Watch the video below for a detailed explanation of what police do at the scene of the accident, and how their report will affect your insurance claim.

Some of the most important information police will collect is:

  • Location where the accident happened
  • Date and the time the accident occurred
  • Damage to the vehicles that were involved in the accident
  • Statements from both drivers as well as any person that witnessed the accident

The evidence provided by a police report will help support your injury or vehicle damage claims and will increase your chances of being reimbursed.

What happens if the police do not come to the accident?

Police may not come to the scene of the accident due to extreme weather conditions. They may not also come because there were no injuries or the damage is minor.  If this happens to you, you may wonder, “can you file a police report after the fact?” The good news is that reporting an accident to the police after the fact is possible.

You can visit the police in person to fill out an accident report, or you can sometimes find an online form on your local police website. Looking at auto accident police report samples can help you understand how to file your own.

However, make sure you are aware of your state’s laws on how long you have to file a police report after an auto accident, as some states give you only a few days. When you do file your report, it is vital that you exchanged information with the other driver and witnesses.

What happens if you don’t exchange information after an accident? You will be unable to share details with your insurer about the other driver’s insurance, and it will be harder to prove fault without witnesses. This could result in your claim being rejected, or you have to file an uninsured driver claim.

In addition to collecting information from the other drivers and witnesses, make sure to take plenty of pictures. Becker Law Group says taking photos is critical, as pictures can make or break an auto insurance claim. The Becker Law Group advises taking pictures of the damage, injuries, traffic signs in the area, witnesses, the other driver, vehicle license plates, and the overall scene. The more pictures you have, the better.

How do I know how to contact the officer who filed my report?

The best way to find out which officer filed your report is to call the police precinct and get a copy of your police report. You may also lookup police reports online. If you have a complaint to make about the officer, you can use the precinct’s complaint form to submit an official complaint.

If you just want to get in touch with the officer to make changes, speak to the police officer directly and be prepared to offer proof that the facts on the report are not correct. For example, if the officer recorded your vehicle year wrong, bring your vehicle registration along. As soon as you see an error, work to correct it. The longer you wait makes it harder to correct your police report.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Compare over 200 auto insurance companies at once!

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Do I need police reports for personal injuries?

When involved in any type of vehicle accident, it is important to remember that not all injuries will present immediate symptoms. It can be hard to tell if someone is injured after an accident, as adrenaline can mask some injuries that won’t show symptoms until later. It is possible that you feel fine after the accident only to start experiencing pain and other symptoms later on.

The most common auto crash injuries are head/back injuries and neck/chest injuries, such as concussions or whiplash.

If you suspect you may be feeling the crash later or someone else may be injured more seriously than they let on, call the police. If a police report is filed and your condition was documented it will be easier to seek compensation.

File a Report Even for Small Accidents for Auto Accidents Today

Filing a police report after any type of accident is a good idea. Today, people are all too happy to sue for money. In addition, other drivers may make fraudulent claims against you.

According to the Insurance Information Institute’s background on insurance fraud, “common frauds include ‘padding,’ or ‘inflating claims'” and “submitting claims for injuries or damage that never occurred.”

So even if you just were in a fender bender, the other drivers may claim you hurt their neck or back to get more money out of you.  Having a police report provides evidence to combat fraudulent claims should any compensation for personal injuries or damages to the vehicles become an issue.

The LawFull video below explains why you should always file a police report.

Bottom line? Even if the accident is minor, it is still a good idea to get the police report in order to have some evidence to use in the future if it becomes necessary. Remember, it is possible to file a police report after leaving the scene of the accident.

Frequently Asked Questions: Do I need to file a police report after an accident?

Do you still have some questions? Still wondering, do I have to file a police report after an accident? Keep reading to find out answers to common questions about filing a police report after an accident.

#1 – Does a police report automatically go to insurance?

A police report will not automatically go to your insurer. It is only when you (or the other driver) file a claim that your insurer becomes aware there was an accident. Once the insurer starts investigating the claim, they will ask for police records. If you need to get an auto accident police report, all you have to do is contact your precinct and they will assist you.

#2 – How long after an accident can injuries show up?

Injuries can show up days or weeks after the accident, as soft tissue swelling or concussions can take a while to manifest. If this happens, NOLO advises seeing a doctor right away, so that you can have proof of injuries for your claim.

This is also why you should never take a cash settlement at the scene of an accident crash. Your injuries could end up costing much more than the few hundred dollars the other driver gave you.

#3 – What happens if I’m in a minor auto accident with no police report and no insurance?

If you have no insurance in an auto accident, you are breaking the law unless you live in a state where no insurance is required. If there is no police report or charges brought against you by the other driver, the state may never learn you were driving without insurance.

However, this is not worth the risk. If you are pulled over or are in an auto accident, you risk losing your license, losing your vehicle registration, paying heavy fines, and spending time in jail. The video below explains why driving without insurance is a bad idea.

You may also ask, what if the auto accident is my fault but there is no police report? Or what if after the car accident, there was no police report but the driver denies fault? If the accident was your fault but there is no police report, or the other driver denies fault, it will be down to the insurers to determine fault.

#4 – Do I need a police report for a single-auto accident?

Let’s say you are driving late at night when you skid off the road or hit a deer. This would be a single-auto accident, as you are the only vehicle involved. it can be helpful to file a police report in these situations, as police can testify to your insurer that the road conditions were terrible or that deer really did jump out of nowhere.

#5 – How long do you have to file a police report after an assault or incident?

This question may seem unrelated, but sometimes auto accident disputes can get heated. Perhaps other drivers had road rage when they hit you, or they don’t like that you are implying they were at fault for the accident. If you are involved in a physical altercation after an accident, the deadline for filing a police report for assault lasts longer than an auto accident police report time limit.

The time limit (statute of limitations) does depend on what state you live in, but usually, you will have at least a year. In comparison, how long do you have to file a police report after an accident? You will usually only have a week to file a police report for an auto accident.

#6 – What happens if there is no police report for a serious auto accident?

If you were involved in a serious accident, we recommend looking up the state’s laws to answer “How many days after a car accident can you file a police report?” Do you have to have a police report for an accident? While you do not have to have a police report for a serious accident unless your state requires it, an auto accident police report will help your insurance company claim.

We hope our guide to filing a police report after an auto accident helped answer your questions. If you want to find cheaper rates after filing a police report after an accident, use our free tool to start comparison shopping for insurance.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Compare over 200 auto insurance companies at once!

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption