How Long After an Accident Do You Have to File a Claim?
- Claims 101
- How Long After an Accident Do You Have to File a Claim?
If you’ve been in a car accident, the next steps in the auto insurance claim process aren’t always clear. You have to deal with the damage to your vehicle and any injuries you may have sustained. On top of that, you have to decide whether or not you want (or need) to file a claim with your insurance.
Many variables – the damage to your car, injuries, the different insurance policies, the question of fault – can play into your decision to file a claim or to manage the damages yourself. It all begs the question: How long after an accident can you file an insurance claim?
How Long After an Accident Do You Have to File a Claim?
For property or collision damage, you can have between 1 year and 10 years to file, with the average being about 3 years. For bodily injury claims, you may have between 1 and 6 years to file, with an average of about just over 2 years nationwide.
But how long you have to file a claim after an accident depends on the state you live in and the insurer you have. It also depends on the type of claim: bodily injury or property damage. Your insurer may also have a tighter window.
Most auto insurance companies want you to file a claim as soon as possible after an accident. They may not give a hard time frame in their policies because some injuries and mechanical damage don’t manifest until days or weeks after the accident.
If you were identified as the at-fault driver in an accident, you’ll always want to let your insurance company know as quickly as possible in case the other driver files a claim against you or seeks legal damages.
You may want to consult your auto insurance carrier when you sign up for the policy to determine how long you may have in the future. It’s safe to assume, though, that your insurer wants you to file a claim as soon as possible. This gives you the best chance at a payout, too.
How Long Do You Have to Report an Accident to the Police?
In addition to a car accident insurance claim time limit you may need to be aware of, you may be required to report certain accidents to your state police if the damage exceeds a certain amount or if people were injured. It varies by state but, typically, you have from right after the accident to 30 days later to report the crash to the police. Ohio is the only notable outlier at six months, but most states fall under a 15- to 30-day time frame.
The time you have to report an accident to the police is typically much shorter than the time you have to file a claim. Oftentimes, when filing a car insurance claim, you need a police report, so keep this in mind. You may have difficulty filing with your insurance without notifying the police, especially if someone else was involved in your vehicle damage. Keep in mind, most states require you to notify police immediately if people were injured or there was serious property damage.
How Long You Have to Report an Accident by State
State Bodily Injury Property/Collision/Comprehensive Notify Police
Alabama 2 years 2 years 30 days
Alaska 2 years 2 years 10 days
Arizona 2 years 2 years 24 hours
Arkansas 3 years 3 years 30 days
California 2 years 2 years 10 days
Colorado 3 years 3 years 60 days
Connecticut 2 years 2 years 5 days
Delaware 2 years 2 years Immediately
Florida 4 years 4 years 10 days
Georgia 2 years 4 years Immediately
Hawaii 2 years 2 years Immediately
Idaho 2 years 2 years Immediately
Illinois 2 years 5 years 10 days
Indiana 2 years 2 years immediately
Iowa 2 years 5 years immediately
Kansas 1 year 2 years Immediately
Kentucky 1 year 2 years 10 days
Louisiana 1 year 1 year Immediately
Maine 6 years 6 years Immediately
Maryland 3 years 3 years 15 days
Massachusetts 3 years 3 years 5 days
Michigan 3 years 3 years Immediately
Minnesota 6 years 6 years 10 days
Mississippi 3 years 3 years Immediately
Missouri 5 years 5 years 30 days
Montana 3 years 2 years Immediately
Nebraska 4 years 4 years 10 days
Nevada 1 year 1 year immediately
New Hampshire 3 years 3 years 15 days
New Jersey 2 years 6 years immediately
New Mexico 3 years 4 years immediately
New York 3 years 3 years 5 days
North Carolina 3 years 3 years immediately
North Dakota 2 years 2 years immediately
Ohio 2 years 2 years 6 months
Oklahoma 2 years 2 years immediately
Oregon 2 years 6 years 3 days
Pennsylvania 2 years 2 years 5 days
Rhode Island 3 years 10 years 21 days
South Carolina 3 years 3 years 15 days
South Dakota 3 years 3 years immediately
Tennessee 1 year 3 years 20 days
Texas 2 years 2 years 10 days
Utah 4 years 3 years immediately
Vermont 3 years 3 years 5 days
Virginia 2 years 5 years immediately
Washington 3 years 3 years 4 days
Washington, D.C. 3 years 3 years immediately
West Virginia 2 years 2 years 5 days
Wisconsin 3 years 3 years immediately
Wyoming 4 years 4 years 10 days
What Could Happen If You Wait too Long?
The longer you wait, the harder it is for a car insurance company to investigate your claim. This can make it harder for you to get the damage covered. For instance, if you file a claim with your carrier stating that a car sideswiped you 60 days ago, giving you body and mirror damage, how can your carrier be sure that the sideswipe was the only source of damage in that time frame?
Even if you have evidence of the collision, many things could’ve gone on between the incident and your claim, which could’ve made the damage worse and that your insurer won’t want to cover.
Furthermore, if you live in a no-fault car insurance state, your personal injury protection (PIP) may have its own timeframe you want to keep in mind. If you got hit in a no-fault state, you’d likely file a PIP claim under your insurance first before seeking more compensation from the other drivers’ insurance.
For example, you have up to two weeks after an accident to file a PIP claim in Florida. Then, your insurer has a window that it must accept or deny the claim. In Florida, to continue the example, the insurance company has 30 days.
So, your insurance policy isn’t your only consideration. If you’ve been involved in an accident with another person, you may have time limits imposed by their policy in addition to PIP and your own plan.
Do You Have to File a Claim After an Accident?
You may also want to remember that you don’t always need to file an auto insurance claim. If there’s just minor damage and no one is hurt, you may not want to file a car accident claim if the total damage is less than or close to your deductible. Your carrier could raise your rates to an extent that it would have been more cost-effective if you just paid for the damages yourself.
But, if there are injuries or notable vehicle damage, don’t hesitate to get your insurance or the police involved. Ultimately, your car insurance is there to help you, which is why it’s required by law in almost every state.
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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.