What Happens If You Don’t Exchange Information After an Accident?

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Not exchanging information after an accident can result in serious legal consequences and fines ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. While specific laws vary by state, all states require individuals to exchange insurance information and identification after an accident resulting in injury or death. In California, anyone involved in an accident (including minor car accidents) must exchange information before leaving the scene or face fines up to $250 (plus court fees).

More than half a million car accidents occur in California every year—but despite how common they are, being involved in an accident is never part of the plan.

If you’re in an accident, knowing what steps to take can help you protect yourself and your interests. Exchanging information with anyone else involved is one of the most crucial things you should do before leaving an accident scene.

However, if you’ve been involved in a car accident and did not exchange information, it’s important to understand the potential consequences and learn what steps you can take to improve the situation after the fact.

Table of Contents

The Law Requires You to Exchange Information After an Accident

Not exchanging insurance information after a car accident can result in serious legal consequences. In most states, individuals are required to exchange insurance information and identification after an accident, even if the accident was minor.

However, in some states, exchanging information is only required if the accident results in injury or death.

Note
In California, anyone involved in an accident must remain on the scene to exchange information with all others involved, even in the case of a fender bender. According to California Vehicle Code 20001, misdemeanor or felony charges can apply to situations where anyone other than the at-fault driver was injured or killed.

California’s Legal Requirements for Exchanging Information

Under California Vehicle Code 16025, all individuals involved in an accident are required to exchange insurance information and identification, regardless of the severity of the accident.

The only exception to this law applies to individuals who are incapable of exchanging information due to being physically incapacitated, unconscious, or dead.

Individuals who do not comply with this state law can face fines up to $250. Including California court fees, the cost of this infraction can easily exceed $1000.

Hit-and-Run Laws in California

If a driver causes injury or death to another person during an accident and fails to remain on the scene to provide all necessary information, this is considered a hit-and-run.

In California, drivers found guilty of committing hit-and-runs can face up to $10,000 in fines and up to one year in jail, with a minimum 90-day sentence if serious injury or wrongful death occurred.

California does not impose jail time if no one was injured or killed as a result of the accident.

Do Other States Require Exchanging Information?

While the laws vary by state, all states require anyone involved in an accident to exchange insurance information if the accident resulted in injury or death. Many states also impose steep penalties for those who do not report accidents to the police. Consequences range from large fines to up to one year in jail.

What Types of Information Should You Exchange?

In California, individuals involved in an accident are required to exchange certain information before leaving the scene, regardless of accident severity.

According to California Vehicle Code 16025, the following information must be exchanged:

  • Name and current residential address
  • Driver’s license number
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Current residential address of registered vehicle owner (if different than driver)
  • Evidence of financial responsibility (proof of insurance, including company name and address, and policy number)
Tip
For those involved in an accident who were not driving a vehicle, providing a name, address, and some form of personal contact information should be sufficient, as long as all drivers provide other relevant information.

What Happens if I Did Not Exchange Information After an Accident?

If you’ve been involved in an accident but did not exchange insurance information and identification with the other involved parties, it’s important to be aware of the potential consequences.

Legal Penalties

Depending on the severity of the accident, you could face legal penalties for not exchanging information.

In California, you could face fines up to $250. If charged, you may also be responsible for paying complex court fees, which can exceed $1000.

Keep in mind that even if the accident was minor, the State of California can still impose penalties if another party decides to press charges.

Trouble Filing an Insurance Claim

If you don’t collect the proper information after an accident, you may struggle to successfully file a claim with your insurance company.

This is because insurance providers rely on certain information to process claims, including driver’s license numbers and insurance policy information.

Difficulty Proving Fault

One of the key reasons insurance companies require drivers to gather insurance information and identification is because they need to investigate the accident to determine fault. Once fault is determined, this is what dictates whose insurance company is liable to pay damages.

If you don’t exchange information, your insurance company won’t have an effective way of determining who is at fault.

Paying Damages Out-of-Pocket

If your insurance company is unable to establish fault and process your claim, you could be on the hook for covering your own damages.

Further, if the other parties involved in the accident incurred injuries or property damage and find a way to contact you, you could also be held liable for covering their damages.

License Suspension

In California, insurance companies are required to report certain accidents to the Department of Motor Vehicles. For example, if an accident results in more than $1,000 of damage or if someone is injured or killed, the accident must be reported to the DMV within 10 days.

If you do not retrieve all necessary information, your insurance company won’t have what they need to effectively report the accident, which can result in penalties for you. Notably, you could face a suspended license.

It’s Not Too Late to Exchange Information

Even if you’ve already left the accident scene, it’s not necessarily too late to try to exchange information. If you can find a way to contact those involved, this is a great way to start covering your bases retroactively.

When you have support from a legal representative like the specialized accident attorneys at Text Kevin Accident Attorneys, the process of finding and contacting the other involved parties can feel much easier and more feasible.

What Happens if the Other Driver Refuses to Provide Insurance Information?

In some cases, another driver involved in an accident may refuse to provide insurance information or identification if they believe they could be at fault and want to avoid liability. Since this is illegal in the State of California, it can be challenging to know what to do in these situations.

If another driver fails to provide the information you need to file your insurance claim, you cannot be held accountable. Instead, do whatever you can to provide your information to the other driver so that your legal bases are covered.

When the authorities arrive on the scene, let them know what’s happening. The police officer who assists you can act as an intermediary to acquire the other driver’s information on your behalf. However, if this is not possible for any reason, take a photo of the other driver’s license plate or write down their plate number and state.

If you and your insurance company are unable to identify the other driver, or if it’s determined that they do not have insurance, your uninsured motorist coverage may be able to cover your damages, depending on your policy.

No Details Exchanged? We Can Help

Regardless of why information wasn’t exchanged, seeking legal support from specialized accident attorneys can help you navigate this complicated process.

At Text Kevin Accident Attorneys, we specialize in supporting individuals involved in accidents so you can focus on healing and recovery and leave the insurance and legal processes to us.

How Legal Representation Can Help After an Accident

In the wake of a car accident, our legal advocates at Text Kevin Accident Attorneys are here to help with every step of the process.

We can help you:

  • Negotiate a settlement
  • Determine liability
  • Assess damages
  • Gather evidence
  • Deal with insurance adjusters
  • Navigate your insurance claim
  • Maximize your settlement

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

Anytime an accident occurs, whether it’s a minor fender bender or a major crash, there are certain steps you should follow to protect yourself, stay safe, and gear up for success moving forward.

Stay Calm

While it can be very easy to panic in the immediate wake of a car accident, try your best to remain calm. Take deep breaths, drink water if you can, and make sure you are positioned safely away from the flow of traffic.

Remain on the Scene

The most important thing to remember immediately after a car accident is that you are legally required to remain on the scene. Until all parties have exchanged insurance information and identification, and all pressing medical needs have been addressed, abandoning an accident scene is considered illegal in the State of California.

Do Not Admit Fault

Regardless of what happens during the accident, it’s important not to say anything that implies fault before speaking with your insurance agent or an attorney.

Pro Tip
When speaking with other drivers, police officers, or insurance adjusters, avoid saying anything that could imply you were at fault. It’s best to leave the process of determining fault to your insurance agent and legal team.

Call the Police

Calling 911 in the immediate wake of an accident is a crucial step, especially if anyone has been injured.

In the case of a serious accident that results in injury, death, or more than $1000 of property damage, report it to the California Highway Patrol or local police within 24 hours. You can file a report online using the SR-1 Accident Report Form.

Even if the accident was minor, calling the authorities can help bolster your insurance claim by providing you with an official police report to aid the claim investigation.

Address Medical Needs

Especially if anyone has incurred a serious injury during the accident, addressing medical needs as soon as possible is critical. When you call 911, let them know if anyone on the scene is in need of immediate medical attention.

Even if you can’t immediately tell whether you’re injured, seek medical attention soon after the accident. Not all injuries are apparent right away, and things like whiplash and other internal injuries can be harder to spot.

Exchange Information with Others Involved in the Accident

Before leaving the scene, be sure to exchange insurance information and identification with all involved parties. This sets you up for success when filing an insurance claim later and helps protect you from legal fines or penalties.

Gather Evidence

Gather evidence by taking detailed photos or video of the accident scene and collecting contact information from any potential witnesses.

Having these pieces of evidence and witness contact information can be extremely helpful for your insurance company and legal representation once they begin investigating your case.

Report the Accident to your Insurance Company

This is especially important if you incurred damages, including physical injuries and damage to your vehicle. By reporting, your insurance policy can help cover the cost of your medical care and vehicle repairs.

If you do not report the accident to your insurance company, you cannot receive coverage through your policy.

Call Us for Support

After experiencing a car accident, it’s important to seek support from qualified legal professionals like our team at Text Kevin Accident Attorneys in California.

We serve many communities throughout the state including Irvine, Palm Springs, Norwalk, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Indio.

Get Comprehensive Legal Help Now

If you didn’t exchange insurance information after being involved in a car accident in California, Text Kevin Accident Attorneys can help. For professional advice and guidance, contact us to set up a free consultation. As your trusted California car accident lawyer, we can help you navigate the legal and financial challenges you may face along the way. Call us or complete our secured contact form to schedule a free consultation today.

Kevin Crockett

Kevin Crockett

Kevin Crockett is an award-winning personal injury lawyer who understands the impact an accident can have on someone’s life. That’s why he aggressively fights for each of his clients.

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