In California, it is required by law for individuals involved in an accident to exchange insurance information. The only time you do not have to share information is if you are physically unable to do so, either because you are incapacitated, unconscious, or dead because of the accident. Further, drivers must also share the following information:
- Their name and current address,
- Their driver's license number,
- Their vehicle identification number, and
- The vehicle owner's address.
If you do not share this information, you may be fined up to $250, plus court fees, which could push the fine closer to $1,000. But it is important to note that a driver will not be assessed points on their license if they violate this rule.
What Does the California Law Require?
Under California Vehicle Code 16025 - the code responsible for mandating the exchange of information after an accident - the drivers must share evidence of their “financial responsibility.” Evidence of financial responsibility can be proven with their:
- Auto insurance card,
- A certificate of self-insurance, or
- A showing that the vehicle is owned or leased by the United States or a public entity.
If an insurance card is offered to prove financial responsibility, the parties must also exchange the name and address of the insurance company and the insurance policy number.
California Ticket for Not Exchanging Insurance Information
In California, law enforcement can issue an individual a ticket for not exchanging their insurance information after an accident when they had the ability to do so. You must make sure you do not ignore this ticket. If you fail to appear at the hearing for the ticket, it could turn a simple ticket into a misdemeanor or felony charge, as well as an arrest warrant.
If the other driver caused the accident that resulted in property damage but then fled the scene without exchanging information, they could potentially face a misdemeanor charge, which would be punishable by jail time up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.
Further, if the driver fled the scene after an accident that resulted in a person's injury or death, it is considered a felony. If the victim's injuries were not serious, the conviction would include up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. But, if they left the scene and the person was seriously injured or killed, it is a felony, which is punishable by two to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. And if they are found to have been intoxicated at the time of the incident, they will face up to five years in prison.
What Happens if the Other Driver Refuses to Provide Insurance Information?
If the other driver does not provide you with their insurance information after an accident, you can still report the accident and file a claim for the damages. You may have to jump through a few extra hoops to get your claim paid, but an attorney can help track down the driver and secure their insurance information.
At the time of the accident, it is important to take a few photos of the other driver's vehicle, their license plate, vehicle make and model, and any damages or relevant details from the scene for your insurance claim. Additionally, you will want to write down a description of the other driver. This type of information will only help track the other driver down later. Then immediately call 911 and report the accident. Make sure to tell them the other driver is refusing to provide you with any insurance information.
Reporting an Accident to the State
Sometimes, police officers in California will refuse to come to the scene of the accident if they feel like it wasn't that serious. When that happens, you will have to file the accident report independently. This report must be filed within ten days of the accident with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Once this form is submitted, you can request the other driver's insurance information through the DMV. This information should be sent to your insurance company, who will contact the other driver's insurance company to get coverage for your claim.
Drivers are required to provide insurance information in California, but some drivers still refuse to do so. In general, drivers who refuse to provide information tend to have high insurance premiums, warrants out for their arrest, or were driving uninsured. This lack of cooperation is not your fault. A skilled car accident attorney can ensure the other driver is found and held accountable.