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Accident Reporting and Police Response

Post Date:08/03/2017 1:00 PM

The moments immediately following a traffic accident can be confusing. The following is intended to be educational before you are faced with such a scenario, and possibly something you may consider keeping in the glove compartment of your car as a helpful guide should you ever be involved in an accident.

Stop in a Safe Location and Assess the Situation
If nobody is hurt and the vehicles are operational, you are encouraged to pull the cars to the shoulder of the road or, better yet, completely off the roadway into a nearby parking lot. Do not move a vehicle occupied by an individual who is hurt.

Failure to stop at the scene of an accident you were involved with may result in serious criminal hit-and-run charges.

Determine Whether it is Necessary to Call the Police
If someone is hurt, you must call the police and wait for law enforcement personnel and the fire department to arrive. Emergencies should be reported by calling 9-1-1. The non-emergency phone line in the City of Santa Clara is (408)615-5580.

In California, there is no requirement to have a police report taken for non-injury accidents.  All that is required is that the involved parties exchange information. The parties can then provide this information to their insurance carrier.   

The Santa Clara Police Department does not investigate accidents occurring on private property (e.g. driveways, parking lots, etc.) unless the following circumstances exist:

  • Injury or fatality
  • Hit-and-run
  • Damage to public property
  • Indication of alcohol or drugs involved
Provide Assistance!
If you are trained in First Aid or CPR, render aid until emergency personnel arrive. If you are not trained in first aid, do not move someone who is badly hurt, unless not moving them could cause greater injury.

Obtain Information from All the Drivers Involved, including:
  • Driver’s name, address and driver’s license number
  • Vehicle identification number
  • Vehicle license plate number
  • Car registration (and, owner information if different than driver)
  • Home, work and cell phone numbers
  • Insurance company’s name and policy number
Gather the Following from Witnesses and Passengers at the Scene:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Home, work and cell phone numbers

Document the Incident
If you have access to a camera, take photographs of the damage and accident scene. If you do not have a camera, make a sketch. Be sure to note the date, time and location of the accident.

Contact Your Insurance Provider
Most insurance policies require you to report an accident in a timely fashion.

A Claims Representative will use statements, photos, a police report and other evidence to determine the party (or parties) at fault.  A Claims Representative should be able to provide you with helpful advice to get your car repaired or replaced.

Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles
If you are involved in a vehicle accident in California, you must report it to DMV if:

  • There was property damage of more than $1,000 ($750 for accidents prior to January 1, 2017);
  • Anyone was injured (no matter how minor); or,
  • Anyone was killed.

The DMV form is available online at  

Filing a Police Report
Filing a Police Report, online or in person at the Police Building, is not a requirement unless one of the following situations exist:
  • Injury or fatality
  • Hit-and-run
  • Damage to public property
  • Indication of alcohol or drugs involved
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