How to Obtain a California Accident Report

State Law Firm - Personal Injury Attorneys

Get a FREE Consultation

Need a California accident report? Our article expedites your lookup by detailing the exact steps to request it, the key information required, and typical wait times for receipt. It is perfect for those seeking a no-nonsense approach to navigating this essential but often stressful post-accident task.

Key Takeaways

  • A California accident report can be requested through the California Highway Patrol office, by mail, by phone, or through insurance companies. The process starts by identifying the proper authority based on the accident’s location and collecting the necessary details for the report request.
  • California’s Division 10 of the Vehicle Code outlines the requirements for drivers and police departments to report accidents, emphasizing the need for immediate and monthly reporting to accurately document incidents and ensure legal compliance.
  • Filing accident reports on time is crucial, as police reports are typically received after a week. Hiring a car accident attorney can facilitate the retrieval process and aid in legal proceedings and negotiations with insurance companies.

How to Request A California Accident Report

By mail, complete and print an Application for Release of Information. Mail it, along with your payment, to the relevant office, typically located in the county where the accident occurred. The standard fee for this service is approximately $10.

A traffic collision report copy can be acquired by:

  • Visiting a California Highway Patrol (CHP) office
  • Scheduling a mail delivery
  • Contacting the California Highway Patrol by phone (916) 843-3000

With the right knowledge, securing a California accident report can be straightforward. The California State Vehicle Accident Report is a comprehensive document containing details about the accident, involved parties, witness statements, and a police officer’s description of the incident.

Furthermore, if you’re navigating an insurance claim stemming from the accident, obtaining a copy of this report can be essential. It provides valuable information for accurately processing and resolving insurance claims.

Identifying the Proper Authority

Identifying the appropriate law enforcement agency is the initial step in requesting an accident report. In California, this could either be your local police department or the California Highway Patrol (CHP) office. The responsible authority generally depends on where the accident occurred.

For instance, if the accident happened within city limits, it’s likely that the local police department handled it. But if it occurred on a state highway, the CHP would be responsible for the report.

Required Information for Your Request

After pinpointing the responsible authority, the subsequent step is collecting the necessary information for your request. This includes specific details about the incident, such as the date of the accident, the names of parties involved, and, if available, the incident number. These details are crucial as they help the authority locate your report in their database.

Submitting Your Request to the California Highway Patrol

Once you have the required information, you can submit your request. The California Highway Patrol provides multiple options for this. You can submit your request by mail using the CHP 190 form, online through the CHP Crash Portal, or in person at the nearest CHP Area office during business hours.

The CHP 190 form, known as the Application for Release of Information, requires details like the incident date and location.

Understanding Division 10: The Role of Vehicle Codes in Accident Reports

Division 10 of the Vehicle Code is a crucial legislation that regulates traffic collision incidents involving motor vehicles and their respective reports in California. This division applies to highways and other areas across the state unless specified otherwise. It requires drivers involved in accidents resulting in injury, death, or property damage to stop and fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004.

Notably, Section 20004 mandates that drivers involved in an accident causing injury or death provide necessary assistance and information to the injured party.

Immediate Reporting Requirements

Under Division 10 Section 20008(a), California law requires drivers involved in accidents resulting in injuries or death to file a written traffic collision report. This police report must be submitted within 24 hours of the accident.This immediate reporting requirement ensures that all relevant details and circumstances surrounding the accident are documented while still fresh, making for a comprehensive and accurate report.

Monthly Submission Duties for Police Departments

In addition to immediate reporting requirements, Division 10 also outlines submission duties for police departments. Each police department is responsible for:

  • Forwarding any crash reports they receive, including the police report, to the main office of the Department of the California Highway Patrol in Sacramento
  • Sending the reports by the fifth day of each month
  • The submission can include either the original traffic collision report or copies thereof.

The Importance of Timeliness: When to File and What to Expect

Promptness is pivotal when filing accident reports and obtaining legal representation. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California is typically two years. This means that you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. However, it’s essential to file your accident report and start the legal process as soon as possible to ensure that all evidence and witness statements are preserved.

Deadline for Common Carriers

For owners or drivers of common carrier vehicles, such as buses, trains, and taxis, there’s a specific deadline for reporting an accident to the Department of California Highway Patrol. They must make a report on or before the 10th day of the month following the accident.

This reporting deadline is additional to the general requirement for drivers in California to submit a CA DMV SR1 form regardless of who was at fault in the accident.

Typical Turnaround Time for Receiving Reports

Upon submitting your report, you might wonder how long it will take to receive your copy. In California, it typically takes about a week to receive a copy of a police accident report. However, if the accident involved a fatality or was complex, it could prolong the wait for the final report up to one or two months.

Delays in processing times at law enforcement agencies may arise from high volumes of accidents or staffing shortages, leading to backlogs.

Assistance from Legal Experts: Engaging a Car Accident Lawyer

The process can seem intricate, particularly when contending with the aftermath of a car accident. This is where legal experts come in. Hiring a car accident attorney can significantly streamline the process and enhance your prospects of obtaining just compensation.

They can help with:

  • Negotiating with insurance adjusters to reach a fair settlement
  • Accurately determining the value of a claim considering medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering
  • Providing guidance on navigating the complexities of the legal process.

Why Legal Representation Matters

Hiring a car accident attorney goes beyond just filing a personal injury lawsuit. These professionals bring valuable expertise in negotiating with insurance companies, ensuring clients are not pressured into settling for less compensation than they deserve.

Additionally, lawyers with experience in the courtroom provide indispensable support if a car accident case goes to trial, having the knowledge to navigate complex legal proceedings.

Attorney’s Role in Acquiring Accident Reports

Attorneys play a vital role in car accident cases, including:

  • Obtaining copies of accident reports
  • Using these reports to draft a persuasive demand letter to the insurance company
  • Bolstering legal arguments for liability
  • Documenting injuries and losses

To demonstrate their client’s innocence in the accident, attorneys may also analyze evidence, procure eyewitness accounts, and employ accident reconstruction experts.

Auxiliary Services for Accident Report Retrieval

If dealing with government agencies seems daunting, specialized online services like Docusearch can assist in procuring traffic accident reports. These auxiliary services cater to individuals or entities with a demonstrable interest in the accident report, including insurance companies and legal representatives.

Criteria for Using Retrieval Services

The use of these retrieval services is not exclusive to parties directly implicated in the accident. Proof of interest can be established through documentation such as a driver’s license for personal identification, a driver’s insurance policy if representing an insurance company, or another driver’s insurance policy if required.

How These Services Simplify the Process

Third-party retrieval services provide a user-friendly online platform for accident report requests. They offer the following benefits:

  • They electronically capture all needed data
  • They offer a unified process for form submission and fee payment
  • They are accessible round the clock
  • They enhance collision report turnaround times via automated reporting and secure electronic data management
  • They facilitate faster electronic delivery to state registrars and individuals

These services make the process of obtaining a copy of a traffic collision report faster and more convenient.


In summary, obtaining a California accident report involves identifying the appropriate authority, gathering the necessary information, and submitting your request. It’s crucial to understand the role of Division 10 of the Vehicle Code in crash reports, the significance of timely filing, and the benefits of engaging a car accident attorney, especially when dealing with an insurance claim. Moreover, services are available to simplify the process of traffic accident report retrieval for those who prefer not to navigate the process with government agencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are California accident reports public record?

No, California accident reports are not considered public records in most circumstances, as stated in the California Vehicle Code 20012. Therefore, they are for the confidential use of the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

How to get a copy of a police report from an accident in California?

To get a copy of a police report from an accident in California, you can request it by mail using an Application for Release of Information or submit the form in person at the California Highway Patrol office.

How can I find out if there was an accident in my area?

To find out if there was a traffic collision in your area, avoid calling 911 unless it’s an emergency. Instead, you can call a Police Desk or the nearest CHP call center for information on any reported accidents.

How to read a traffic collision report in California?

To read a traffic collision report in California, look for important information such as the type of parties involved, driver details, vehicle information, insurance carrier, and policy number. This will help you understand the circumstances and individuals involved in the collision.

What is Division 10 of the Vehicle Code about?

Division 10 of the Vehicle Code in California is about accidents and accident reports.

Free Consultation

Contact Form