Knowing which steps to take after a car accident is not common knowledge to everyone. Though many have a basic idea of what comes next, sometimes small details can escape in the stress of the moment. However, each driver is responsible for gathering the appropriate information about the different aspects of a car accident. Especially when filing a claim with your insurance company or small claims court, remaining on top of the process is crucial.
Where Do I File an Accident Report?
DMV Accident Report
An accident report is not the same as a police report or insurance claim. West Virginia requires drivers to report their accident to the DMV when it causes:
- Injury or death of anyone involved in the collision, including pedestrians
- More than $500 in property damage
Drivers must report accidents that result in these types of damages because they shift an incident out of minor status. Accidents that don’t involve any sort of injury and incur less than the $500 cap of damage do not necessitate DMV accident reports.
Aside from the DMV accident report, drivers involved in collisions must also report their accident to the police. Filing a police report is similar to the DMV accident report in that it is only necessary under certain conditions.
- Injury or death of any associated parties
- $1,000 in property damage
In West Virginia, if an accident takes place within a city, the driver must report the incident to local law enforcement. If an accident occurs in a rural area with no obvious immediate law enforcement, the driver must contact the office of the county sheriff or the nearest town’s police station.
Requesting a Police Report
If you intend to file an insurance claim or personal injury claim, it helps to request a copy of your police report. A police report is one of the first official forms of evidence available to a claimant in any claims filing context. This is what makes reporting an accident correctly to an officer so important, especially in terms of your injuries. In West Virginia, a driver involved in a collision can request a copy in person at a local police station or by mail several days after the accident occurred. To obtain a report, drivers must provide the date of the accident, its location, and the names of all parties involved.
What Is an AR-13?
An AR-13 is a form that the driver must fill out and submit to the DMV. This form indicates whether the driver possessed adequate insurance during the accident. Improperly reporting an accident to the DMV, including filing your AR-13, can result in license suspension.
How Long Do I Have to File an Accident Report?
Each state possesses their own statute of limitations that dictate when a driver must file a personal injury claim. In West Virginia, drivers have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim with small claims court. And although states don’t dictate when insurance companies require their members to file a claim, this time period is typically within ten days unless under extenuating circumstances. A useful rule of thumb is to fill out all appropriate forms as soon as you can. Even waiting to file your crash report with the DMV could result in penalty that makes an already stressful situation worse.
What if I Don’t File a Police Report?
A driver wouldn’t file a police report under one of two circumstances: leaving the accident scene before police arrive or not calling the police at all. Considering the previously discussed criteria for involving police in an accident, generally law enforcement comes when injuries occur.
It is important to note that calling the police is mandatory as is remaining at the scene of the accident. Leaving the scene before an officer can fill out a report gives them the means to charge you with a hit-and run, which can count as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the other party’s injuries and context of you leaving the scene.
Not calling the police at all is also illegal. West Virginia law dictates that all drivers involved in collisions that meet their damage cap must always call the police. The other driver can file a police report on their own after the incident if you insist on not involving the police, causing trouble on your end. Moreover, not providing your insurance company with a police report will likely stall the claims process.
Car accidents are inherently stressful, but not knowing the guidelines you must follow within the subsequent few days of a collision can make matters worse. Though you must treat your injuries and rebuild your health, remember to cover yourself legally by filing a report with the police and the local DMV.