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Maryland Law on Filing a Police Report After a Car Accident

This page concerns whether you must file a police report or notify your insurance company after an accident and how long you must provide information. Thankfully, most car accidents are minor fender benders in which no one gets hurt, and there is little or no property damage. Most of these are rear-end accidents.

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In 2023, car bumper technology has risen to where it takes a pretty solid hit to do any significant property damage. So while you may still see scrapes and scratches in these minor crashes, you are unlikely to see actual property damage or a significant dent. Sometimes, and the science is clear, people can still suffer substantial injuries without significant property damage.

If you have been in a car accident in Maryland, a common question is whether you must report the car crash to the police or your insurance company.

What Is the Maryland Law on Reporting Car Accidents?

Maryland law does not require you to report every car accident to the police. There are six circumstances when you are required to report a motor vehicle accident:

The smart move is almost invariably to contact the police any time there is a motor vehicle accident, even if it seems insignificant at the time of the crash.

  • An occupant of one of the vehicles is hurt
  • A driver in the crash is drunk
  • A vehicle needs to be towed
  • A driver cannot or refuses to exchange information
  • A driver is not licensed
  • A driver flees the scene of the collision

Even though the law does not require reporting accidents that do not meet one of these six-prong tests, some Maryland drivers still report the collision to the police. Why? First, if there is some property damage, there could be a liability dispute, and one issue may be whether the accident ever occurred.

Here, you want to have documented evidence that the accident occurred so that you and your insurance company are armed to argue that the other driver was responsible. If you call the police, they might do a partial police report.

But they rarely do an “exchange of information” that accomplishes your goal: proving the collision occurred.

Rear-end collision

There is often a delay between the time of the car accident and when the occupants begin to experience pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. Serious injuries, including objectively verifiable injuries like herniated discs, often do not involve immediate pain after the collision.

Why does reporting the claim to the police matter in these cases? One of the first things an insurance company defending a claim will tell us during settlement talks — and potentially the judge or jury if it comes to it — is that the accident was so insignificant the victim did not even bother to call the police.

Another upside of reporting the collision to the police is that the at-fault driver is often more honest at the accident scene. The police will often ask them the “What happened?” question, and they are likelier to give an honest answer to an authority figure than to you and their insurance company after the accident.

How Long Do You Have to Report an Injury Claim in Maryland?

We are commonly asked how long you must report a car accident to your insurance company. The amount of time you have to report an accident to your insurance is what is reasonable under the circumstances in most states (and under most insurance contracts).

Under Maryland law, specifically Maryland Transportation § 20-107, you must provide written notice of an accident that involves bodily injury or death unless the crash “has been investigated by a police officer and a report by the police officer has been filed with the Department of State Police.”

Do Marylanders in accidents follow this law? Rarely.

What Does § 20-107 Require?

The gist of the statute is that you must provide notice of crashes where there are injuries if the police are not involved. This is the language of the statute:

§ 20-107. Written accident report required by each driver involved in an accident

Report by driver required

(a) The driver of each vehicle involved in an accident that results in bodily injury to or death of any person shall, within 15 days after the accident, report the matter in writing to the Administration.

Evidence of liability insurance or security

(b) The driver of each vehicle involved in an accident that results in bodily injury or death of any person shall, within 15 days after the accident, file with the report evidence of liability insurance or other security that satisfies the requirements of Title 17 of this article.

Additional information relating to the insurance carrier and policy

(c) In addition to any other information required by the Administration, the evidence required under subsection (b) of this section shall contain:

(1) The name and address of the insurance carrier or other provider of security for the person making the report;

(2) The policy or other identifying number of the liability insurance or other security; and

(3) The name and address of the local insurance producer for the insurance carrier or other provider of security.

Report of accident from the owner of the vehicle

(d) If the driver is physically incapable of making the report or is unavailable or refuses to do so, the Administration, at its discretion, may require instead a report of the accident from the vehicle’s owner. In that case, the owner shall report the matter and file the evidence of insurance as required of the driver.

Supplemental written reports

(e) The Administration may require the driver or owner of the vehicle to file supplemental written reports if, in its opinion, the original report is insufficient.

Exceptions to written accident report requirements

(f) A written accident report is not required under this section:

(1) If the accident has been investigated by a police officer and a report by the police officer has been filed with the Department of State Police; or

(2) From any person while that person is physically incapable of making the report.

Is It Illegal to Not Report a Fender Bender?

So under Maryland Transportation § 20-107, failing to report a fender bender is not illegal, assuming there are no bodily injuries. So if you are in a minor fender bender and no one is hurt, there is no obligation imposed by law to report the crash to anyone.

Maryland law does not require you to report this collision if you hit a deer or have another single-car crash and there are no injuries. As we discuss in the next question, there may be a contractual obligation to notify your insurance company. So you do not want to assume that a minor fender bender always means no police report is necessary.

Am I Required to Report My Accident to My Insurance Company?

Contractually, most car insurance policies with the major insurers — like State Farm, GEICO, or Allstate — require you to report any car accident, even fender benders, hitting a deer, or an accident on private property. If you have an accident in Maryland that is not your fault, there is little reason you would not report the occurrence of the car accident to your insurance company.

You are not required to notify the at-fault insurance company of a claim. You are also not obligated to — nor should you — talk to them without speaking to a lawyer first.

Your insurer might also require a recorded statement. Maryland law is unclear whether your insurance company can deny your claim based on the refusal to give a recorded statement about your accident.

Generally, for injury victims, we comply with the request for a recorded statement but require that the victim may answer the questions with their lawyer, usually in a phone call.

The Risk of Not Reporting a Claim to an Insurance Company

Ultimately, despite the contractual requirement that you report a claim, people fail to report and often get away with it. If you just handle it yourself, the insurance company will never know. Why do people do this? The at-fault driver usually convinces the victim not to report the claim because of the fear of increased car insurance rates.

But this is just too risky for BOTH the victim and the at-fault driver, mainly if there are injuries but even for a minor fender bender… and even if it is not your fault. Let’s say you agree with the at-fault driver not to report the claim. If he does not compensate you as you agreed, his insurance company may deny the claim, leaving you without anyone to compensate you for your loss. Conversely, the at-fault driver might be stuck with a considerable claim from the victim, and his insurance company might refuse to stand behind the claim because it was initially unreported.

Similarly, not getting a police report in a hit-and-run accident will diminish your credibility if you later assert a claim. Without a police report, your insurance company might not cover the damages, especially in the case of a hit-and-run where the other party is unidentified. Moreover, the police are more resourceful today than you think with the technologies we have today. They may be able to identify the person responsible for the hit and run.

The take-home message is clear: the risks significantly outweigh the upside of not reporting a claim.

How Can I Get My Police Report Online?

You can not get every police report in Maryland online. You can learn how to get police reports in Maryland here.

What If the Police Report is Wrong?

If the police report is wrong in a way you can demonstrate to the police officer, the officer will likely change the report even if you have evidence you were not at fault. If you do not like the police officer’s conclusion or she will not change the report, there is little you can do.

But you must remember that a police report does not decide liability in a trial. A judge or jury makes the decision. The police report is inadmissible hearsay, so the police report’s ultimate conclusion is unlikely to hurt you at trial. The practical problem of an incorrect police report is that it makes the case far more likely to go to trial because the insurance companies pre-suit tend to assume the police report is correct.

What Happens If There Is No Police Report for a Car Accident?

The absence of a police report does not impede your ability to bring a claim against the at-fault driver. The insurance company and, if necessary, a judge or jury ultimately decide who is responsible for a car accident and what damages should be awarded.

How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company?

The deadline to report a car accident to your insurance company may be in your insurance policy. It might give a length of time or state that you have a “reasonable time” to report the claim. There is no 24-hour rule.

The best thing you can do is report the claim immediately. If you have delayed reporting the claim, call today to report your case.

Do You Need a Police Report for a Car Accident?

You do not need a police report to claim property damage or personal injury. But if you want to give yourself the best chance of a good recovery and get off to a fast start toward a settlement, you would prefer to have an accident report from the police.

Do You Need to Stay on the Scene After a Car Accident?

Maryland Transportation Code Annotated § 20-103(a) and (b) requires drivers involved in accidents involving property damage to remain at the accident scene or return to and remain at the accident scene until they have complied with Transportation Code § 20-104.

Section 20-103(c) provides that failing to do so is a misdemeanor offense with incarceration as a possible penalty for a hit-and-run. Section 20-104 mandates that drivers involved in a car accident with property damage must render aid if there are injuries from the crash and provide information such as registration, insurance, and driver’s license.

So the failure to comply with this Maryland law is a misdemeanor offense with incarceration as a possible penalty (usually hit-and-run involving a severe injury or death).

Should You Call a Lawyer After a Car Accident in Maryland?

You need a lawyer if you have been seriously injured in an accident. If you have minor injuries, it is a more complicated question. Elsewhere, our lawyers give the pros and cons of hiring a lawyer.

But here is the thing to remember: a phone call is free. If you have been in a car accident in Maryland, you should contact an attorney immediately to ascertain your legal rights. You may have as little as 180 days to take the legal steps necessary to preserve your claim.

To learn how our Maryland car accident lawyers may be able to help you get compensation, complete our free case review form today or call 800-553-8082.

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