Do You Have to Report Your Car Accident Immediately?

How you report a car accident — including when and to which entities — depends on factors, including whether there were injuries or how much damage occurred. Leaving the scene of an accident without stopping to provide your information to the other party can result in criminal charges. However, you don’t necessarily need to report every single minor fender bender to the authorities.

When Are You Required by Law to Report a Car Accident in Massachusetts?

You aren’t required by law to report a crash within the first 24 hours to authorities. However, Massachusetts does require that certain accidents be reported within five days of the crash.

This requirement applies to accidents that meet any of the following parameters:

  • A person was killed as a result of the accident
  • A person was injured as a result of the accident
  • $1,000 or more in damage occurred to at least one vehicle or another type of property as a result of the accident

It’s easy to hit that $1,000 threshold, even with a minor accident. For example, a fender bender that requires one car to get a new bumper could easily require $1,000 or more in parts and labor. So, if you’re not sure about the value of potential vehicle damage, you may want to report an accident to be on the safe side.

How Do You Report an Accident in Massachusetts?

You should download and complete the Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report. You will need three copies of the completed form — though you probably want four total copies so you can keep one for your records.

Once you complete the form, mail a copy to:

  • The police department or state police barracks that has jurisdiction over where the accident happened (you can also hand deliver the form if you wish)
  • Your insurance compan
  • The RMV
    The address to use when mailing this form to the RMV is Crash Records, Registry of Motor Vehicles, P.O. Box 55889, Boston, MA 02205-5889.

Who Should Complete the Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report?

In most cases, this form should be completed and submitted by the person operating a car involved in the accident. However, if that person is incapacitated and is not the owner of the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle should submit the form in their place.

Failure to submit the form within five days or provide supplemental information requested by the RMV can result in suspension of your driver’s license.

When Should You Call Law Enforcement to the Scene?

If the accident warrants a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report, you should also call the police while you are at the accident scene. This way, a law enforcement officer can come to the scene, if possible, and create an official police report. As it can be difficult to determine what injuries and damage might have occurred in an accident while you’re at the scene, it can be a good idea to call the police even if you believe the incident is minor.

You should definitely call 911 if anyone is injured at the accident scene. The 911 dispatcher can ensure the appropriate first responders are on the scene, such as firefighters, police officers, and EMTs.

What Happens if You Delay Reporting an Accident to Your Insurance Company?

Though you have five days to complete the Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report and submit it, you may want to contact your insurance company as soon as possible after any auto accident. The sooner you report an accident, the sooner your insurance can get the ball rolling on necessary claims work.

If you fail to report an accident in a timely manner to your insurance company, it could work against you. For example, consider a case where a vehicle is still operable following an accident. If you drive it around for days before reporting the incident to your insurance company, there’s a chance your insurance provider could claim that the damage was caused in another incident and not the accident in question. This could make getting compensated for those damages more difficult.

What Else Should You Do When You’re in a Car Accident?

If you’re able to, take some actions to preserve evidence. Use your cell phone to take pictures of damage to all the vehicles at the scene, signage and traffic signals, and any markings on the road or grass that might have been caused by vehicles in the accident. Also use your cell phone camera to photograph the driver, driver’s license, registration and license plate for the other party involved in the accident. Gather the contact information of everyone present, as they may be important witnesses if there is a lawsuit later.

Something you should avoid doing is agreeing that you were at fault in an incident or apologizing at the scene. You might also want to avoid discussing your injuries — or even your lack of injuries — with anyone at the scene other than EMTs who are providing treatment to you.

Finally, if you sustain damages or injuries in an accident and believe that the incident was the fault of another driver, reach out to a personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Talking to a lawyer before you agree to any sort of insurance payment or settlement can help you fully understand your options and what your rights are. Remember, your insurance company may provide excellent service, but it also has other stakeholders to answer to. Your best interests are almost never the most important thing to an insurer.

At Contant Law, our clients’ interests are one of our top concerns. To find out how we can help with your car accident case, give us a call at 617-221-8221.