In New York, driver’s education courses are largely geared toward avoiding an auto accident. There is considerably less instruction on the subject of what to do after an accident.
One of the first (and most important) steps to take after a New York car crash is filing a police report. It’s something you should do after any crash — even one that seems insignificant or unimportant.
But what if several days have passed and you realize you never notified the police? Or what if you did call the police but they didn’t follow through with a formal report?
“Can I still file a police report after the accident?” you might ask. “Is it too late?”
In today’s article, we explain:
- How and where to file a police report after an accident in New York,
- The difference between a Police Accident Report and a Civilian Accident Report in New York,
- When an accident report is required under New York law,
…and much more. We’ll also tell you how an experienced Kingston personal injury lawyer at O’Connor and Partners can help you take your next steps forward.
Note: Filing a Police Report Is Not the Same as Filing an Insurance Claim
First things first — it’s important to understand that police reports and insurance claims involve two totally different processes.
It is true that your car insurance contract probably requires you to call your insurer and notify them that you’ve been in an accident. But notifying the insurer isn’t the same as reporting the accident to law enforcement. You have to do both.
Even if you have zero intention of filing an insurance claim, pursuing a lawsuit, or making a claim for compensation, you still need to cross both these items off your to-do list ASAP:
- Notify your car insurance company.
- File a police report.
We also strongly recommend that you see a doctor as soon as possible for a post-accident medical exam (because many of the most common car accident injuries do not show distinctive symptoms and can happen at very low speeds) and contact an experienced Kingston personal injury lawyer (because you have rights, which may include the right to financial compensation).
There Are Two Types of “Auto Accident Reports” in New York
In New York, the terms “accident report” and “police report” can get confusing. In general, when we talk about the filing of a formal report after an auto accident, we are talking about one of two forms:
- MV-104A (Police Accident Report) — This is the official police report the responding officer files after your accident. While it is generally the officer’s responsibility to complete this report, there may be situations where that responsibility falls to you instead (more below).
- MV-104 (Civilian Accident Report) — Some collisions require that each driver file a Report of a Motor Vehicle Accident, also referred to as a “Civilian Accident Report” (NY Form MV-104). This report should be completed using the information contained in the MV-104A, as well as the Exchange of Information form the responding law enforcement officer should have provided you at the scene of the crash. More on this below.
When Should I Contact the Police About My Auto Accident? Will They File the MV-104A Automatically?
The right time to notify the police about your auto accident is as soon as it happens.
You should never leave the scene of the crash without notifying law enforcement and waiting for an officer’s arrival (unless it’s in an ambulance). Doing so can lead to a number of legal problems down the road.
When the police officer arrives, he or she will complete MV-104A and file it shortly thereafter. Ask the officer for a copy of the MV-104A report or instructions for accessing it online.
If for some reason the officers choose not to respond to your accident (which may happen if the police are very busy or if the accident seems very minor), you may then be responsible for contacting the local law enforcement office directly and filing an MV-104A report as soon as possible, either in person or by telephone.
When Am I Required to File a Civilian Accident Report (MV-104)?
You are required to file Form MV-104 within 10 days of the accident if:
- Anyone was injured in the accident, or
- Anyone was killed in the accident, or
- The accident caused more than $1,000 in damage to any individual person’s property.
You must use the official New York State DMV Form MV-104, and you must submit it directly to the DMV by U.S. Mail (be sure to use the address listed at the bottom of the form and follow all instructions carefully).
It’s a good idea to send MV-104 by Certified U.S. Mail, Return Receipt Requested so you’ll have proof that the DMV received it. You should also create a copy of the completed form for your records before mailing in the original.
Can I Still File a Police Report After an Accident?
Generally, yes. However, there are some important things to understand about filing a police report after an accident in New York.
If you left the accident without calling the police:
You can still notify law enforcement about the accident. However, instructions for filing a police report after an accident may vary from one police department to the next.
The department might allow you to file MV-104A yourself in person, over the phone, or online. Alternatively, the department may instruct you to submit an MV-104 report to the NY State DMV instead.
Note that in some situations, failure to notify the police immediately after an accident can result in civil and/or criminal penalties.
If you were required to file a Civilian Accident Report (MV-104) but failed to do so within 10 days:
It is still possible to complete the form and mail it to the State DMV.
However, failure to file within the first 10 days may result in various civil and/or criminal penalties — including the potential for suspension or revocation of your driver’s license and/or vehicle registration.
While you should not delay in providing timely notice of an accident to law enforcement and/or the NY State DMV as required by law, it may also be in your best interest to immediately consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer to discuss the potential implications of a late filing and your rights under the law.
Can Someone Else File the Report for Me?
If you have hired a personal injury lawyer, he or she should be able to handle the filing of a police report for you. Your lawyer can help you understand exactly what needs to be filed in your situation and the process for meeting any procedural requirements that might apply.
If you are not represented by an attorney, your auto insurance provider may or may not provide some limited assistance with filing a police report after an accident. However, you shouldn’t assume that the insurance company is taking care of these requirements for you, nor should you depend on them without following up for confirmation of compliance. Ultimately, you are responsible for meeting your filing obligations under state law.
If you have a disability or were injured in the accident and are physically or mentally unable to complete MV-104 within 10 days of the accident, any capable passenger in your vehicle can do so on your behalf. Likewise, if you are incapacitated and you were not the owner of the vehicle you were driving, the owner may complete and submit MV-104 on your behalf. (Indeed, capable passengers and/or vehicle owners may have a legal duty to submit MV-104 on behalf of an incapacitated driver.)
How Will a Tardy Police Report Affect My Insurance Claim?
When accident victims come to us and ask, “Can I still file a police report after an accident?” they are often just as worried about the financial stakes as they are the formal filing requirements. After all, auto accidents can carry a tremendous financial toll for the victims, and the idea that a tardy form could keep you from the compensation you deserve is a terrible thought.
Earlier in this article, we explained that filing an insurance claim and filing a police report after an accident are two totally different processes. It’s important to keep that fact in mind.
So here’s the bottom line: if you were injured in a New York auto accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, you have rights.
Failure to file an accident report on time may complicate your insurance claim (or personal injury lawsuit), but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t recover the compensation you deserve.
If you have been injured, please contact the Kingston personal injury lawyers at O’Connor and Partners as soon as possible. It is important never to make assumptions about your legal rights or your options for pursuing them. Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney instead.
Free & Confidential Consultation with a New York Personal Injury Attorney
O’Connor and Partners is a personal injury law firm based in Kingston, NY and providing legal services across the state, including: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
We fight hard to maximize compensation for injured drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in New York car accidents. We are proud to offer confidential, no-cost, no-obligation claim consultations to accident victims throughout the state.
If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.
If you can’t come to us, we will come to you. Just contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with an experienced Kingston personal injury lawyer today.