Do I always have to contact the police after an accident?

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jun 28, 2017

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Here's what you need to know...
  • You are not obligated to call the police after every car accident, but it always is a good idea to contact the police
  • There are certain animals that, if you hit them with your car, you must contact the police
  • Make sure you gather the insurance and contact information of the other driver in every accident

Although it would be in your best interest to always call the police when you get into a car accident, you only have to call the police if there has been major damage to the cars, persons, or property involved in the accident.

Even in a minor fender bender, contacting the police to see if they will come over to assist in reporting the vehicle mishap between you and another driver is a smart move.

The more proactive, prepared, and calm you are before a car accident, the clearer your head will be to make an informed decision during this potentially stressful time.

Type in your ZIP code now to find out what car insurance rates you may qualify for in your area!

Do I need to report to the police if I hit an animal with my car?


In most states, you would not have to call this type of accident into the police. Although you may be shaken up, you are not legally obligated to call in for most creatures.

Animals that you do need to call the police about if you are in an accident with them are:

  • Horse
  • Cattle
  • Pig
  • Goat
  • Mule
  • Donkey
  • Dog

If you hit a cat or other creature, make sure it is on the side of the road and that it is all right. If the animal is severely injured, you can choose to help it by calling a veterinarian.

Why should I call the police even if the car accident is minor?


Even though in some metropolitan areas the police will not come out to an accident unless there is severe damage to the vehicles or someone is injured, you should still make the call.

Having a police report may be the best piece of evidence to prove to your insurance company if you should be liable for the accident or not.

Although the police will not file a police report for you immediately, you will still be able to get a copy of the report.

Usually, you have to pay a nominal fee to the police station a few days or weeks after the accident.

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What information should I exchange with the other driver if I get into a car accident?

If you both can get out of the car and are in a safe place to take down information, here are the critical pieces of information you should take down:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Vehicle identification and license plate numbers
  • Contact information for their insurance companies and policy numbers
  • Car’s registration and get the owner’s name and contact information if it’s not the driver
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses and passengers

If you have a camera or one on your cell phone, take photographs of the damage and the car accident scene. If you are without a camera, at least try to make a rough sketch of the accident.

Make sure to note the time, date and location of the accident.

If a police officer does arrive, take down his/her badge number, and find out where and when you will be able to pick up this police report.

Should I contact my car insurance company if the accident is minor?


No matter how big or small an accident you should always file a notification with your insurance provider.

But depending on your deductible, you may not want to file a car insurance claim.

If you have a high deductible, and the accident only caused $300 worth of damage after getting the car evaluated by a trusted mechanic, then you may want to delay filing a claim on the car so your insurance premiums don’t go up.

In this instance, you can simply pay for the repair out of pocket.

To find out what kinds of insurance rates and deductibles are out there for you, type in your ZIP code now to compare numerous car insurance quotes in your area!

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