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Most of us have a weird, knee-jerk reaction to traffic accidents. We like to pretend we don’t know about them and try to put as much distance between ourselves and the traffic accident as we possibly can. This is our reaction whether we’re involved in the accident or if we’ve simply witnessed one.

When a traffic accident occurs, many of us wonder if we actually have to report it to the police.

If you’re driving any of the vehicles involved in a car accident, you are legally required to report the accident to the police. Technically, you have 24 hours to complete a written report about the incident. All things considered, it’s in your best interest to report the accident as soon as it happens. There are several reasons for this:

  • The responding officer will handle writing the written report for you
  • Filing the insurance claim will be easier
  • The events leading up to the cause of the accident is fresh in everyone’s mins
  • You won’t have to worry about being labeled a hit and run driver

In addition to letting the police know about the accident, you need to let your car insurance company know about the accident as quickly as possible. Not only will this put you in a position to receive your claim money as quickly as possible, but if an investigation is needed, they will be able to talk to everyone involved while the details of the accident remain fresh in everyone’s mind.

But what if you merely witnessed a car accident but weren’t directly involved with it?

This is a little bit trickier. Technically, you should stop. It’s in your best interest to make sure that everyone who was involved in the accident doesn’t need any type of medical attention and you should also plan on serving as a witness to the incident.

While morally and ethically you should stop after witnessing an accident, in California, you’re not legally required to do anything. You can keep driving. That being said. If additional information is needed about the accident or if the police discover that your actions impacted the accident it’s possible that they will figure out a way to locate you (they can use traffic cams to get your license plate) and will eventually contact you.

How do you respond when you are either involved with or witness a California car accident?