With most auto accidents, you can’t simply shake hands with the other driver and walk away. This is true even if you and the other driver don’t want to press charges; or, if at first glance, the accident appears minor.

Even if you already know this, you might have questions such as: How long do I have to report a car accident before running the risk of getting into legal trouble? Th answer to this question and more are included in the breakdown provided below.

That said, you can contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers for even more information as well as a free case evaluation by calling 1-516-342-2200 or visiting us online today!

Who Must Report an Auto Accident?

According to New York State law, you must report an auto accident under the following circumstances:

  • When a person is injured or killed in the accident; and/or
  • If there is more than $1,000 worth of damage to the property of at least one individual, including you

If either of those two conditions is met, you must file an accident report with the DMV. Every driver involved in the accident has to file a separate report. For example, the two drivers involved in an accident cannot collaborate on one report and have one person file it for convenience’s sake.

Does this mean that you must report a fender bender? Not necessarily. For example, if you are engaged in a minor auto accident where you bump another vehicle’s fender, but there is barely any or no discernible damage, you may not need to report that accident.

Still, it can be difficult to determine whether damages exceed $1,000, especially if you’re unfamiliar with auto repair costs. As such, if you’re ever uncertain about whether you should report an auto accident, you should err on the side of caution and do so.

Also, please know: It’s far better to file a report with the DMV within a reasonable time frameto keep yourself legally covered than to skip filing a report and later be found liable for fines and other penalties.

Do Passengers Have To File Accident Reports?

According to New York State law, passengers don’t necessarily have to file accident reports if they are involved in an accident. This duty is typically reserved for the involved driver(s). For instance, if you are sitting in the passenger seat with a family member driving and they get into an accident with another driver, you don’t necessarily have to file an accident report in the aftermath.

That said, it might still be wise to do so. Filing an accident report can help the police better understand what occurred by gathering more eyewitness statements. Furthermore, it can serve as an effective record for your own sake. For example, if you are injured in an accident, having a record of what caused the injury could help you recover insurance payments to pay for medical bills down the road.

What If the Other Driver Doesn’t File a Report?

Even if the other driver in an accident doesn’t file a report, you still have to do so. One person breaking the law does not make it okay for you also to go without filing an accident report.

Sometimes, the involved drivers in an accident will attempt to shake hands and not file an accident report. They may do this to prevent their insurance premiums from getting higher. However, this is against the law. If you are discovered, you could face heavy fines and other penalties.

If the other driver in an accident doesn’t file a report – which can occur in a hit-and-run accident – you should still file one but note that the other driver didn’t file a report in your own documents. Again, this is valuable information the police can use to track down the other driver and potentially get justice if your injuries or property damage were high or severe.

Other Legal Requirements

In addition to filing a report with the DMV, legally you’re required to call emergency services if someone is injured from an auto accident. That’s because many auto accident injuries can seem unimportant or minor at first but develop into more serious injuries later.

If you or another driver or passenger are injured in an auto accident, you should call emergency services without delay. Qualified EMS professionals can examine you and make sure you don’t have any major injuries. And if you do have an injury, they can properly treat it.


  • If you damage a parked vehicle or other property or injure a domestic animal, you must locate the owner of the property or animal and contact the authorities to report the property or vehicle damage.
  • It is always a crime to leave the scene of an accident if you cause a personal injury or death. As you could be accused of a hit-and-run, always contact emergency services instead.

As well, please don’t forget to give your contact information to the other driver! For more on this, or for a personalized case evaluation at no charge, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers now at 1-516-342-2200.

How Long Do You Have To File an Accident Report?

According to New York vehicle and traffic laws, you have (10) days to file an accident report with the DMV. If you fail to do this, the DMV could suspend your driver’s license until they receive your accident report.

Significantly, these (10) days start from the day of the auto accident in question, not the day after. You should, therefore, make filing a report with the DMV a top priority after contacting emergency services, if necessary, and after contacting your insurance company (more on that below).

Note, too, that filing rules may vary from state to state. As such, if you are driving in a state other than New York, you must adhere to that state’s filing laws. Do not assume that the 10-day rule is the same in another state.

How To Report an Accident

Fortunately, reporting an auto accident to the DMV is fairly straightforward.

  • First, download and fill out the Report of Motor Vehicle Accident form. This is also called MV-104.
  • After filling out the form, send it to the DMV electronically; or, print the form, fill it out, and deliver it to your local DMV office in person.

Note, however, that the circumstances of your accident may change what you need to fill out on the accident form.

  • If the accident in question only caused property damage, you are legally required to exchange insurance and registration information with the other driver involved. You must also file the MV-104 while listing the property damage.
  • If the accident in question resulted in an injury or death, you are required to notify the police immediately and file the MV-104 with the appropriate information marked.

Once you fill out and submit your accident report, you can always get a copy of it from the DMV later. Remember that your accident report appears on the records for yourself and any other involved drivers. It also does not indicate that you were at fault in any way, so it will not hurt any upcoming auto accident litigation.

To get a copy of your accident report, you can either:

  • Contact a local police agency or precinct that dealt with the accident. Then, ask the agency if your accident report is available and, if it is, ask for a copy.
  • Get an accident report from the DMV if it has been filed and processed by that organization.

If you adhere to the time limit when providing your accident report, you will have eliminated potential roadblocks in getting your report back in time for a personal injury claim or another lawsuit.

To maximize your chances of success, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers today and speak with one of our leading accident attorneys at no charge. Simply dial 1-516-342-2200 and allow us the privilege of assisting you in your legal endeavors. Alternatively, you can schedule your free consultation when you visit us online now!

Who Should You Report an Accident To?

In addition to reporting an accident to the DMV, it may also be wise or even necessary to report an accident to other organizations. These organizations include:

The Police

Remember: If your car accident involves an injury or death, you are legally required to stay at the scene of the accident and report it to the emergency authorities right away.

Note, too, that if there aren’t any serious injuries, you can still report your accident to the police by visiting a police station or using non-emergency numbers. You must also report an accident to the police if you strike a parked vehicle and can’t contact the owner.

Your Car Insurance Company

New York doesn’t have any laws requiring you to report your car accident to your insurance provider. But this is always a good idea since failing to do so could prevent you from receiving your no-fault insurance benefits.

If you don’t report a collision promptly, your insurance provider might refuse to give you coverage should you need it. Most insurance companies require you to report an accident within (30) days of the incident.

Your Attorney

If you have a car accident attorney, it’s wise to let them know about the collision as soon as possible (but after notifying emergency authorities). This will give them added time to prepare litigation if you want to sue an at-fault driver, or if you need to defend yourself from negligence accusations.

What Is MVAIC?

What happens if you get into a car accident with a driver who doesn’t have any insurance? After all, as a no-fault state, New York relies on every driver in an accident having insurance so that everyone can get their medical and property damage bills paid for.

In such an incident, you should file a claim with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). The MVAIC is a fund that protects automobile accident victims, pedestrians, and cyclists who may want to recover monetary losses caused by a collision with an uninsured driver.

Think of this as a good organization to contact if you are facing financial strain and the other driver cannot pay for your bills, either because they are a hit-and-run driver or have no insurance. To qualify for payments from the MVAIC:

  • You must submit a notice of intention (NOI) within (90) days. Otherwise, you will likely not be eligible for the program.
  • File an NOI if the crash involved an identified motor vehicle (e.g., it was not a hit-and-run) within (180) days.

Be sure to do this toward the end of the accident investigation. It’s possible that, even in a hit-and-run incident, the police may be able to identify the other driver in the accident and recover their insurance information so you can get damages the normal route. Use the MVAIC if there are no other means to recover damages and help you pay for associated expenses.

Why Is Reporting an Accident Important?

Reporting an accident is vital, as it protects you from breaking the law. Failing to report an auto accident to the DMV and/or police may result in you facing severe fines or even jail time. For example, if you injure an individual in a car accident and drive away, you could be sent to jail for participating in a hit-and-run.

But quickly reporting your traffic accident is also vital for receiving insurance coverage, as insurance policies often contain clauses allowing them to withhold coverage if a policyholder does not report an accident in a timely manner.

In the claims process, your deductible and insurance adjuster use the accident report to determine who pays for expenses for a bodily injury or other damages. Therefore, your car accident claim’s success is dependent on you filing quickly. If you file after the other driver, or after too much time has passed, your driver’s insurance company could charge you more or cover less.

Reporting an accident is also important because it allows you to legally adhere to the guidelines set forth by the DMV Accident Re-examination Program. The purpose of this program is to identify drivers who have been involved in (3) or more accidents in the last (18) months. As a consequence, violators will be administered additional tests to ensure their driving safety.

Moreover, to avoid getting into legal trouble, reporting an accident to the DMV will ensure that you are not made to pay unnecessary fees. Even if you think you may have to pay money for an accident, it will cost more in the long run if you don’t report it to the appropriate authorities and organizations.

Note: Experienced legal representatives like the award-winning team of Schwartzapfel Lawyers can help you before, during, and after your accident is first reported.

What Happens If You Don’t Report a Car Accident?

You may face major fines, penalties, and sanctions if you don’t report a car accident in New York. For example:

  • If you don’t report an accident that exceeds $1,000 in damages, you’ll be penalized with a $250 fine or (15) days in jail.
  • If you don’t report an accident resulting in injuries, you could face fines ranging from $500 to $1,000. You could additionally face up to one (1) year in prison.
  • If you fail to report an accident that involves death, disfigurement, loss of an organ or member, bone fractures, or other serious injuries, you could face a fine of up to $2,500 or up to four (4) years in prison or both.

As you can see, the consequences of ignoring these laws are very severe. As such, you should report any accident that meets the above criteria quickly.

On top of that, if you do not file an accident report when you should, you could negatively affect your chances of getting compensation from your insurance carrier. The longer you take to notify the police of an accident, the more ammunition you give the insurance company to deny your claim. Even with knowledgeable attorneys, you could find it difficult to get the compensation you need from your insurance carrier.

Lastly, the MVAIC requires you to file a report of any car accident with the police within (24) hours. If you don’t do this, your eligibility for the program could be compromised. In such an incident, you may not qualify for financial compensation.

Does Reporting an Accident Help a Future Lawsuit?

Reporting an accident could positively affect a future lawsuit if you qualify for it. As a no-fault state, it’s normally impossible to sue another driver in an accident for damages or other compensation. There are a few exceptions, namely if the accident in question causes exorbitant property damage or if it causes severe, very painful injuries.

For instance, if you were involved in a car accident and experienced disfiguring injuries, and the other driver in the accident was deliberately negligent or malicious, you could have grounds for a lawsuit.

Reporting an accident quickly may greatly benefit your upcoming case.

As evidence, consider how reporting an accident promptly can help:

  • You show the court, judge, or jury that you did everything properly and are trying to follow the legal system’s rules. This will likely reflect well on you if you’re the plaintiff in an accident lawsuit.
  • You qualify for maximum compensation from your insurance provider and other programs like the MVAIC.
  • You demonstrate that you were immediately committed to safety and following the law after the accident.

In many cases, the outcomes of car accident lawsuits are determined by what the judge or jury thinks of the character of each plaintiff or defendant. If you paint your character positively, you’ll be much more likely to see a positive outcome for your case.

Does Reporting an Accident Affect the Statute of Limitations?

Reporting an accident does not affect the statute of limitations.

In New York State, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits resulting from car accidents is three (3) years from the date of the accident. For instance, if a car accident occurred on May 22, 2022, you would have until May 22, 2025, to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault or negligent driver.

In most auto accidents, the date of the accident is generally known or a matter of public record, regardless of whether you file a report. Furthermore, when you file an accident report with law enforcement, you will note the date and estimated time at which the accident occurred.

Therefore, your filing date doesn’t impact the statute of limitations or your legal case (aside from whether you file your report promptly).

How Legal Professionals Can Help

Car accident lawyers can assist with filing an accident with the DMV in several ways.

Assist With Filing an Accident Report

First, car accident attorneys can help you file an accident report on time, in full, and with the right forms. While we’ve broken down how to file an accident report above, attempting to do so in person can feel a little daunting and complex.

If you contact seasoned attorneys from the get-go, they can help you:

  • Download, print out, and acquire the right forms to file your accident report properly.
  • Ensure that all forms are filled out and filed correctly. This can be invaluable for an upcoming auto accident lawsuit, as any mistakes you make could be used against you. More importantly, filing your forms correctly is vital for recovering compensation from your insurance carrier after an accident.
  • Help you file the forms by sending them to the right place. Skilled attorneys will also ensure that your accident report is preserved for future use.

Note: You shouldn’t discount the health and peace of mind this can provide, especially if it’s your first time after an accident or filing an accident report. To learn more now, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online today!

Gather Evidence To Support Your Claims

Next, knowledgeable car accident lawyers will help you get the evidence you need to support your claims should you file a lawsuit against an at-fault or negligent driver.

For instance, say that you were involved in a drunk driving incident. You want to sue the drunk driver behind the other car’s wheel because your injuries were very severe. You’ll need ample evidence to prove drunkenness, including but not limited to:

  • Traffic camera footage.
  • Police reports.
  • Eyewitness evidence and testimony.
  • And more!

As you recover from the injuries sustained in a serious car accident, the last thing you may want to do is run around getting evidence and analyzing it for its appropriateness for your case. The right lawyer can do that for you instead, enabling you to rest up and regather your strength and energy for any upcoming court dates.

Provide Legal Counsel

Naturally, qualified lawyers will be able to provide you with ongoing, sound legal counsel. Seasoned auto accident attorneys such as Schwartzapfel Lawyers can offer you exemplary legal counsel from start to finish by advising you as to:

  • How best to move forward after an auto accident.
  • The details of New York auto accident litigation laws.
  • Whether your case qualifies for a lawsuit or whether it will likely be approved based on the evidence you have at hand.
  • What you need to do to maximize your case’s success rate.
  • Whether you should pursue a lawsuit or you should pursue some other means of legal recourse, like arbitration, mediation, etc.

The right lawyers won’t guarantee a certain amount of money from any lawsuit or legal action. They’ll instead tell you that they will do the best they can. Don’t hire lawyers who promise a certain amount of money; no legal team can do that, no matter its experience.

Represent You in Court

Should your lawsuit proceed to trial, your lawyers will represent you effectively in court. Even if you have some experience in court, it’s best to rely on trained legal representatives to do the heavy lifting in these circumstances.

Court procedures are distinct and often require a lot of training to master. When you work with knowledgeable auto accident attorneys, they can represent you effectively and show that you were not at fault for an auto accident. This is true whether you are the one filing the lawsuit or seeking to defend yourself from accusations of fault or negligence.

If you are called to the stand for a testimony, your lawyers will tell you what to say, how to stand, how to present yourself, and much more. These will maximize your chances in securing a satisfactory outcome. Again, leaning on knowledgeable attorneys is usually a good tack to take, especially if you are nervous or have never before been to court.

For more information as well as a free case evaluation, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online now!

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

Reporting an accident on time and to the right organization(s) is critical to ensuring legal compliance and avoiding unnecessary penalties and fees. It can also play an integral role in litigating successfully, whether you are on the prosecution or defense side of the aisle.

To that end, Schwartzapfel Lawyers is ready and able to handle your auto accident case. Not only can we help you file your insurance claim before the statute of limitations expires, but we can also answer any questions you may have about auto insurance, DMV regulations, and so much more.

So, why wait? Contact us now either online or at 1-516-342-2200 for a free consultation and, with it, peace of mind. Your financial future is worth it.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!


Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You™™

New York DMV | How to file a motorist accident report | dmv.ny.gov

Report of Motor Vehicle Accident | dmv.ny.gov

New York DMV | How to Order and Access Motor Vehicle Accident Reports | dmv.ny.gov

Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation

Hit-and-Run Criminal Charges and Conviction Penalties | Nolo.com

New York State Insurance Requirements | DMV.ny.gov

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