Not all accidents are considered equal in North Carolina. The law regarding accident reports is not optional or elective. You need to pay close attention to the repercussions of failing to submit a report even if you don’t want to deal with this type of inconvenience. Still, figuring out what qualifies as a “reportable accident” in North Carolina can be a confusing process. Keep reading to learn more about this issue from the experienced Charlotte car accident lawyers at Dewey, Ramsay, and Hunt, P.A.
What is a Reportable Accident Under North Carolina Law?
A reportable accident is a crash that results in:
- A person’s injury or death;
- Property damage of at least $1,000; or
- Property damage to a vehicle seized in forfeiture in an impaired driving case.
People tend to get confused if there is uncertainty about the level of property damage. If you are in an accident and not sure what to do, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact an attorney who can guide you regarding the steps necessary to comply with the law.
What Happens If I Do Not Notify the Police About a Car Accident?
According to N.C.G.S. § 20-279.31, failure to report an accident can result in a driver’s license suspension of up to 30 days. You are required to send your driver’s license to the DMV and can face other penalties if you don’t comply.
In addition, it’s a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina to knowingly lie to an officer investigating a reportable accident or anyone who falsifies or forges evidence of “financial responsibility” as required in North Carolina.
Why Are Accident Reports Important in North Carolina?
It’s impossible to predict what can happen after a car accident. Even the most minor accidents can turn into tragic events. For that reason, you may want to have an official report of your accident in North Carolina. Even minor accidents can result in unexpected disputes.
Only reports made by law enforcement officers or medical examiners are considered “public records” admissible in court. You can protect your rights by having an official report. If there are any changing versions of the incident, you won’t be able to introduce your report into evidence at trial because it’s prohibited under North Carolina law. Courts generally accept certified copies of accident reports from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in North Carolina.
You are required to report the accident with the appropriate law enforcement agency where the accident occurred. The State Highway Patrol, sheriff’s office, or other qualified county police are the appropriate reporting agencies when the accident occurs outside a city.
What Information Should I Expect to Find in an Accident Report?
The law enforcement agency where you make the report has a duty to investigate reportable accidents and complete a written report within 24 hours after the accident. The reports are expected to specify:
- The cause of the crash
- The conditions existing at the time of the crash
- The names of the persons and identifying information about the vehicles involved
- Whether a vehicle has been seized and is subject to forfeiture
The report also must contain information on who the officer identified as “at fault” for the accident. The officer writing the report will send the report directly to the DMV or submit it to the local law enforcement agency.
Am I Required to Report Accidents for Parked or Unattended Vehicles in North Carolina?
You are still required to provide a report within 48 hours of the accident. Drivers engaged in a collision with a motor vehicle left parked or unattended on a street, road, or highway must report the collision to the owner of the vehicle. This requirement applies to a crash that is not a reportable accident as well as to one that is. This report must be made orally or in writing, and it has to include:
- The time, date, and place of the accident
- The driver’s name, address, and driver’s license number
- The license plate number of the vehicle that caused the accident
If the driver makes a written report to the owner of the parked or unattended vehicle and the report is not given to the owner at the scene of the accident, the report must be sent to the owner by certified mail, return receipt requested, and a copy of the report must be sent to North Carolina’s DMV.
What is a Non-Reportable Accident?
Non-reportable crashes are crashes that fall under "fender bender" accidents. The police departments are NOT required to investigate or even respond to these type crashes. Most departments will do so as a courtesy to the drivers, but nothing requires them to handle them.
These types of accidents are when drivers exchange information with each other directly. After doing so, the drivers have an option to go through their insurance company or they can handle it themselves without insurance company involvement. These type of accidents don't require a police report to be kept on file. Again, most departments will respond and handle these types, but there is NO requirement to do so.
Also, if you are involved in a non-reportable crash, the law requires you to MOVE the vehicle from the roadway or travel lane as quickly as possible. Drivers can actually be fined under law if their vehicle can be moved off the road and they refuse to do so.
Turn to a Skilled Attorney Who Will Defend You After a Reportable Accident
You are not alone if you are confused about what qualifies as a reportable accident in North Carolina. The Charlotte personal injury attorneys at Dewey, Ramsay, and Hunt, P.A. can explain if you were in a reportable accident and why you should consider reporting your accident even if it doesn’t fully qualify. To discuss your case in detail, call us at (704) 377-3737 today and set up your free consultation.