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How Long After an Accident Do You Have to File a Claim?

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  • 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.