Car crashes, even minor ones, are incredibly stressful. You might not be up for calling the police and dragging out the situation. However, it’s important to know when to call the police after a car crash.

Wisconsin requires motorists to call the police after any “reportable crash,” but we’d suggest you call the police after any crash, regardless of whether you think it was minor or not. Here, we’ll tell you what kinds of crashes you’re legally required to report, plus why it’s a good idea to report minor accidents. Let’s get right to it!

What kinds of crashes you need to report to the police in Wisconsin

According to Wisconsin state law and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, you’re required to report certain vehicle accidents. These are called These “reportable crashes” include the following:

  1. Accidents involving deaths or injuries: It goes without saying that you should report fatalities. Injuries, in this case, include any injury requiring first aid or medical attention, regardless of whether any care is administered. So, if someone is wounded and refusing medical care, they still count as injured and the accident should be reported to the police.
  2. Accidents that cause over $200 worth of damage to government-owned property: This clause excludes vehicle damage. So, if you crash into a piece of infrastructure like a streetlight or traffic light, you’ll need to report it.
  3. Accidents resulting in over $1,000 worth of damage to personal property: While it may be tricky to estimate the exact cost of damages, it’s worth assuming the worst. Failure to notify law enforcement of a reportable crash can result in fines of up to $500 and even suspension of your driving privileges.

How to report a crash

In the immediate aftermath of a crash, we recommend the following steps:

  1. Report the crash within seconds or minutes of the incident. Of course, if the accident caused injuries or fatalities, you should call 911 right away.
  2. If you’re not experiencing an emergency, you should call an appropriate law enforcement agency, such as the sheriff’s office, the state traffic patrol, or the municipal traffic department.
  3. Law enforcement will complete an incident report within ten days of the incident, documenting all the relevant details so they can take appropriate action.

If you don’t alert law enforcement of a reportable crash, you may receive a letter from the Department of Transportation asking you to complete a report. Additionally, you could face fines if you fail to call the police after a “reportable crash.” You can also report a crash online. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Collect the relevant information you’ll need to file the report, including your driver’s license number, Social Security number, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and any relevant insurance information.
  2. Head to the online report filing system and fill out the required fields. You’ll need to state whether the crash involved animals, pedestrians, cyclists, parked or unoccupied cars, or fixed or moving objects.
  3. The form should take about half an hour to complete. Once you’ve completed all the questions, you should submit the form and save a copy for your records.
  4. If one or more of the motorists involved in the crash are uninsured, they’ll need to complete additional forms in line with the Safety Responsibility Law.

Three reasons why you should report all crashes to the police

Following a minor crash that doesn’t fit the criteria of a “reportable crash”, you may feel a little reluctant or embarrassed to report the incident to the police. After all, nobody likes to take up other people’s time, and you probably just want to move on.

However, calling law enforcement following a minor incident could save you time, money, and stress for the following reasons:

  • You may actually be injured: Sometimes, car crash injuries may start to hurt hours or even days following the incident. If you’re in a state of shock, adrenaline may be preventing you from feeling the full extent of your injuries. If you sustain an injury such as whiplash, your crash may count as reportable by law.
  • Police reports support insurance and compensation claims: Insurers often require police reports for claims made following an accident. At the very least, a report will provide strong evidence for a claim and increase your likelihood of a decent payout. Similarly, a report could provide the evidence you need to successfully file a personal injury claim.
  • A report could help resolve disputes: If another driver disputes your claims, a police report can serve as a record of your respective responsibilities for the crash.

Why police reports matter

Police reports are regarded as reliable evidence by insurers and lawyers, helping to eliminate the biases often seen in eyewitness accounts. If you’re looking to win the money you deserve following a crash, a police report could help you get it.

Need your car accident report? Check out our article on how to access yours.

Common injuries from minor car crashes

Even minor car crashes can cause injuries that lead to major long-term consequences. Such injuries include:

  • Concussion: Concussions are a notoriously dangerous brain injury where the brain impacts the side of the skull. Symptoms may be minor at first, including headache and dizziness. While concussion-related fatalities are rare, the condition can cause long-term neurological issues such as poor concentration, memory loss, and chronic fatigue.
  • Whiplash: Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when the head is quickly jerked back and forth. The condition is very common in vehicle collisions and can cause long-term neck pain, stiffness, and headaches.
  • Herniated disc: A herniated disc happens when vertebral discs rupture, causing numbness, muscle weakness, and chronic pain. Sometimes, surgery is the only available option for treating the condition.
  • Sprains and strains: Soft tissue injuries such as sprains may not appear until a few days after an accident. In the long term, however, they can cause chronic pain and interfere with mobility and quality of life.

Because the symptoms of these injuries may not be immediately evident, it’s critical that you always file a police report, even if you don’t think anything’s wrong. And if an insurance company asks if you’re OK, don’t answer the question, as it could make it harder for you to recover damages in court.

Related read: When should you seek medical attention for car crash injuries?

Conclusion

Minor crashes and injuries are easy to sweep under the rug. We get it. You’re busy, and you want to move on with your life. But sometimes, even small injuries can have big impacts on your life. Costly medical bills, time spent recovering from injuries, and future medical care can all disrupt your quality of life and impact your financial wellbeing. When another driver’s negligence caused you these injuries, you shouldn’t be responsible for paying for the damage.

If you were injured in a car crash, get in touch with Pasternak & Zirgibel. Attorneys Frank Pasternak and Jeff Zirgibel will personally represent you, work diligently to understand your case and your needs, and fight for every penny you deserve.

To learn if you need a lawyer following your car crash, check out our article on when to hire an attorney.