You’re involved in what seems like a minor fender-bender with another car, and nobody appears to be hurt. You know the police are busy and can’t always visit minor accident scenes, so you don’t call the police. You and the other driver simply exchanged the appropriate insurance and contact information and thought, “That was that.”

The only problem: A few days later, the sore back you got in the wreck is worse than ever, and your shoulder aches from the seat belt. Your arm is positively numb. You’re starting to realize that you were hurt worse than you thought.

Are you out of luck because you didn’t call the police? Not really. While it’s always preferable to have the police on the scene of a wreck, California has a failsafe that still protects your rights.

California law requires motorists who have been involved in a traffic accident that resulted in injuries, a death or property damage that exceeds $1,000 to file an SR 1 form with the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of the wreck. All parties to the accident are required to file, even if they aren’t at fault. This helps create a record of the incident and protects your interests if you later file a personal injury claim.

Some additional things you should consider doing:

  • Make certain that you see a doctor for your injuries. Let the doctor know you were recently in a motor vehicle accident.
  • Write down everything you remember about the wreck. The details can fade quickly.
  • Get photos of the damage to your vehicle and any bruises or visible injuries you have.

Finally, it’s usually wise to contact a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible. While you have two years to file a personal injury claim in this state, you don’t want to wait that long to get some experienced assistance with your case.