There are financial consequences if you do not report a car accident in Florida. Under the law, motorists involved in a collision are obligated to report the accident to law enforcement when there are injuries or significant property damage involved. If you fail to report the accident and leave the scene of the collision, you could face criminal charges.
The responsibility to submit a written accident report does not apply if the police investigated the crash. Reporting the accident orally or over the phone to a law enforcement officer means there is no need for a follow-up report from you.
Penalties for the Failure to Report a Car Accident in Florida
If you are required by Florida Statutes § 316.066 to report an accident and fail to do so, the consequences you face are non-criminal in nature. The failure to report an accident results in a $30 penalty. You cannot go to jail for this offense, as it is not treated as a criminal charge.
The consequences for leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it to police are much steeper. Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense that could result in jail time, especially if the collision involved extensive property damage, bodily injuries or death.
It is best to make the phone call and report the accident. Mention all apparent injuries—whether it is a pedestrian, passenger, yourself, or an occupant of the other vehicle who is hurt. There is no minimum injury specification, so even a minor bruise can be considered an injury. It is often best not to take chances.
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When Reporting an Accident to Law Enforcement Is Required
State law does not require motorists to report every accident to police. Minor collisions and fender benders do not require you to notify law enforcement. The situations where you must notify the police of an accident include:
- Accidents that result in bodily injuries
- Accidents that result in death
- Accidents that result in property damage in an apparent amount of $500 or more
It should be noted that the $500 threshold for property damage is low enough to apply to a large number of motor vehicle accidents. The reality of car repairs is that even relatively minor body work frequently costs more than $500. Outside of minor scrapes or dings, many car accidents easily surpass the $500 threshold.
The law requires notifying the police of an accident as soon as possible through the fastest means available. This often means calling the police from the scene of the crash. Since a majority of people carry cell phones, this is easier than ever. Notifying the police in this way is enough to satisfy a motorists’ duty to report an accident.
When You Must Provide Written Notice of an Auto Accident
There is one situation where drivers must provide written notice of a car crash. If a driver involved in an accident that requires reporting notifies the police and they do not investigate, that driver must submit a written report to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).
Motorists must submit these reports within 10 days of an accident. You can find the form on theFLHSMV website. Once completed, you can submit it digitally or by mail.
Reporting from the Car Accident Scene
When an accident occurs within a municipality, you should report it to the local police department. If you are on state or interstate highways, you should report to the Florida Highway Patrol. In rural areas that do not have dedicated police departments, you can report the accident to the county sheriff.
When reporting from the accident scene, make sure you give the operator important information like:
- Your location
- Your cell number in case your call gets disconnected
- Whether the involved parties suffered any injuries
- Whether the accident blocked the roadway or the drivers moved their vehicles to the side of the road
Many state highway systems have special reporting numbers. In Florida, the universal number for reporting incidents is Star FHP (*347). This system is similar to 911, but its purpose is to incorporate the unique ability of cell phones.
If You Are Physically Incapable of Filing an Accident Report
In serious accidents, you may be physically unable to promptly file a report. If law enforcement investigated what happened, you are not required to submit a separate written report. However, if they didn’t investigate, you must file a report as soon as you are able.
If you had a passenger and they can file a report, they may do so on your behalf. If you were driving someone else’s car, the vehicle owner is responsible for filing a report if you couldn’t due to your injuries.
What to Do If the Other Driver Asks You Not to Report the Car Accident
Report it anyway. The other driver may be willing to accept the fines for failure to report an accident, and that is their choice. They may have many reasons for the request, such as:
- They are underinsured or have no insurance.
- They are an unlicensed driver.
- They have a history of getting into car accidents.
- They have illicit substances in their vehicle.
- They were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
You are obligated to report the accident, no matter what.
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Reasons to Notify Your Insurance Company
Whether or not you are required to submit a report to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is one thing. Your obligation to report an accident to your insurance company is another. Under the terms of most insurance policies, insured drivers have the responsibility to notify their carrier when an accident happens. This is true whether or not that individual ultimately files a claim with their own insurance carrier.
The purpose of this requirement is to ensure the insurance company has the ability to investigate the facts of an accident. Even when you don’t personally file a claim, the other driver may file a claim with your insurance carrier. Before they make a decision on accepting or denying coverage, carriers will perform their own investigation.
Because these investigations are time-sensitive, insurance companies require their drivers to notify them of a crash as soon as possible. You don’t need to contact them from the scene, but you should call as soon as possible after an accident. Failure to notify your insurance company could have real consequences. It could lead to the denial of your insurance claim or even the cancellation of your entire policy.
You Do Not Have to Notify the Other Driver’s Carrier
You might have legal or contractual obligations to notify the police or your insurance provider. That said, you are never under any obligation to speak to the other driver’s insurance company or notify them of the accident.
In fact, talking to the other driver or the insurance company about your accident is a risk you do not need to take, as your words could be taken out of context to seem as if you accepted liability for a crash. To protect your case, avoid discussing your accident with anyone but your attorney.
Talk to an Attorney from Our Firm Following Your Car Accident
While it is understandable to wonder what happens when you do not report a car accident in Florida, the reality is that there are rare circumstances where you will have to do more than call the police.
If you were involved in a car accident, the team at Bogin, Munns & Munns is here to help. If you hire one of our lawyers after a car accident, we can help you understand what steps are necessary in the aftermath of a collision. To give yourself a chance at financial compensation following a car accident, contact Bogin, Munns & Munns as soon as possible for your free consultation.