How Long After An Accident Can You File A Claim?

A car accident, however minor, is always a scary experience.

Then, after the accident, there is a lot to take care of — processing the trauma, dealing with injuries (if any), assessing damages, and many more.

That’s where car insurance claims come in.

What Is A Claim?

A claim for car insurance is a report you file after a circumstance, say a collision with another vehicle or a pole, resulting in damage to your car.

It might not help you process the accident’s trauma, but the advantage of having car insurance is that you can claim damage or injury.

Your car insurance company will pay you or for your car after the damage usually after you meet your deductible.

In other words, you were well prepared for future misshapen and planned for it. In the event of damage or injury, you don’t have to worry.

Depending on the accident’s severity, you might have other more pressing immediate concerns like getting your car back on the road or treating injuries.

But, even in the course of everything, you’ll find yourself wondering things like: Do you need to file an insurance claim? And, how long do you have after an accident to file a claim?

Scenarios In Which You Should File A Claim After An Accident

You cannot just file a claim because of an accident. Not all situations require filing an insurance claim.

Insurers often give specific scenarios when you should file a claim. Here are some:

  • If one is injured.
  • If the fault is unclear.
  • If your vehicle is deemed to be at a total or significant loss.

If Anyone Is Injured

If you, any passenger(s) in your car, anyone in the other car, or any pedestrians are injured in a crash, you need to file a claim. Do this mainly if there’s a chance you’ll be found at fault.

If the Fault Is Unclear

In an accident, the person who is at fault may be vague. If your car accident results in property damage or injury, and the fault is in dispute, you’ll need to file a claim, and your provider will represent you against the other party’s provider.

If Your Vehicle Is Deemed A Total Or Significant Loss

If the value of your car’s damage exceeds your financial ability to cover the loss, you need to file a claim.

Car involved in a wreck turned upside down over a culvert. It looks like someone has stripped it of it's tires also.

You will choose your collision coverage or property damage coverage in your liability insurance.

What If You Are Unsure Whether To File Claim?

If you’re unsure of whether to file a car insurance claim or not, this is what you should do:

  • Contact your provider and notify them of the accident.
  • Get a precise estimate at your local mechanic for the damages and repair costs.
  • Find out what your car insurance provider would be able to cover from the accident
  • Compare the cost of repairs to your insurance’s total rates, and rates increase.
  • Collect all the necessary documentation, including photo records of the accident. Your provider might need them.
  • If filing a claim is cheaper, then file the claim.

Take note that if you are going to file a claim, do it as quickly as possible. But, you have to report the initial accident.

How Long Do you Have to Report The Initial Accident?

Before you even start processing your car insurance claim, you need to report your accident:

  • Report to the police immediately from the accident scene.
  • Report to your insurance company.

Report To The Police

It is advisable always to call the police, usually 911, from the accident scene to report the accident.

Your insurer will almost require you to report the accident soon after it happens. Often the required duration is within 30 days, but the time duration varies.

This means you will need a police report to start your claim. Never agree to keep the accident “between us” or fail to report it because that may hinder your application.

Report To Your Insurance Company

Insurance companies have their deadlines.

Call and report to your insurance company almost as immediately as the police – the same day as the accident. This could only be possible if the accident wasn’t severe and you can inform the police.

Some insurance companies may require that you report an accident within as little as 24 hours to have a valid claim.

Male Driver Making Phone Call After Traffic Accident

Insurance companies will counter check with the police report – including time and dates – to validate your claim.

How Long After An Accident Can You File A Claim?

As mentioned earlier, the first step is to report to the police and the insurer immediately.

Car insurance policies often stipulate that you report accidents “promptly.” The term “promptly” is vague but means you should report the accident as soon as you can, often while you’re still at the scene.

Some injuries or damages are not apparent until days or weeks later. In such a case, the police report will provide useful evidence for all the reports you will file later, including your claim.

Only after reporting the accident can you file a claim.

You can also reframe the question in different ways:

  • How much time before you claim does the provider give you?
  • When does the clock start to run?
  • Are there deadlines you have to report or file a claim?

The answer varies. There is no universal answer to this question.

The deadline for filing a claim is legally called “a statute of limitations.” it stipulates that you must not resolve your claim within the limitations period, but you must have it filed in court.

The time you have to file a claim depends on several factors, such as the severity of the accident, your insurance company, your particular policy, or your state.

Technically, your right to pursue a claim typically starts on the day of the accident. This means it is best to file a claim sooner than later.

To find out how long your provider gives you to report, check your policy or contact your provider directly. However, many insurers generally set a time limit for claims.

For instance, personal injury claims are often set to two years, and property damage claims within three years. But, this still depends on your insurer, policy, or state.

Insurance claim forme

However, take note that after you’ve filed the claim, your insurer might give you a much shorter deadline, often 60 days or less to submit all relevant documents to validate that claim.

Bottom Line

Your decision to file a claim after an accident depends on several factors, including your state, provider, or damage.

If you are going to file a claim after the car accident, then you must do it as soon as possible.

Once you file the claim, the provider will assign an insurance adjuster to take care of reviewing important materials such as the police report, photos of damages, and witness accounts. These materials will be used to support payments to your claims.

The insurance adjuster will also handle payouts to the other party, if applicable. If there is litigation, the insurance adjuster will also handle the situation.

If your car needs repairs, your insurance company will work with your repair shop to sort the damage.