If you get involved in a traffic accident, even a minor one, most insurance experts recommend you plan to inform your insurance company. This applies even if you do not need to make a claim. Since traffic incidents get listed on your driving record, they may impact your insurance premiums, so insurers want to be updated on them. It may be a good idea to read through your policy details or contact your insurer directly to inquire about accident reporting requirements.


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Reporting an accident to your insurer is not the same as filing a claim, although they may be done simultaneously in some circumstances. Depending on the state you live in, you may have anywhere between one and 10 years to file a claim. This time limit depends on the government statutes that each state follows.

How long do I have to report an accident to my insurance?

Requirements for reporting accidents to insurance may vary. Every state has a different statute of limitations when it comes to filing an insurance claim for an auto accident. This time limit could also vary depending on the type of damages involved. For example, the statute of limitations for filing a bodily injury claim may be shorter than it is for filing for comprehensive or property damage.

Your car insurance company may also have its own protocols for claims filing. These can be found listed in your policy, but will likely defer to state regulations. When filing a claim, it may be helpful to consult both of these resources. Being aware of the allotted time for claim filing could help you determine if you’ll be able to resolve the claim through insurance or need to pay out-of-pocket for repairs.

Why would I wait to file a claim?

After an accident, some damages or injuries may not become apparent until days or weeks later. If you think this may be the case with you, it may be a good idea to wait to file a claim, but most insurance professionals recommend consulting your insurance company on the appropriate timeline for your claim.

You should be aware of your state’s statute of limitations and file a claim within the time set by the government. If you file later than the time limit, the insurer may have the right to reject your claim.

Statute of limitations by state

If you are wondering how long after an accident you can file a claim, the answer is that it varies from one state to another. Each state has its own statute of limitations, which insurance companies have to abide by. The following are the limitations in each state:

Can my insurance company deny my claim?

The longer you wait to file a claim, the more difficult it may be to reach a resolution. If too much time has gone by, it could be harder to establish evidence for your case. This is especially true for bodily injury damages, as there needs to be a clear connection that the accident caused the injuries. Other reasons your insurance company could deny your claim may include:

  • A further investigation indicates that false claims were made about the accident.
  • The damage in question is not covered by your insurance policy.
  • The cost of collision or comprehensive damage to your vehicle is less than your policy’s deductible, making it a minor accident.

How long do I have to report a car accident to the police?

Filing a car accident report with your police department can be done immediately after an accident, especially if there has been major damages and injuries. Similar to filing car insurance claims, time limits for filing police reports vary by state. For example, Tennessee requires that police reports be filed within 20 days of an accident, while Louisiana requires police reports be filed immediately. Even if the at-fault driver has not been determined yet, it may be a good idea for all parties to file a police report.

A car accident police report limit may vary by state. When you file an insurance claim, your insurer will likely ask for a formal police report. Therefore, getting it done sooner may make the claims process easier for you.

Frequently asked questions

    • Yes, if the vehicle was damaged or if you are filing a bodily injury claim, you will almost always need a formal police report. This helps the insurance company rule out foul play and establish fault. A police report is also required if you want to sue the other party involved for damages.
    • The time limit for filing a car insurance claim is set by the government and varies by state. The insurance company needs to abide by the respective state’s statute of limitations for bodily injury claims as well as for property damage and other comprehensive claims.
    • The easiest way to do this is by calling the emergency hotline or customer helpline number of your insurance company. If you are filing a claim, you must have a formal police report, pictures and videos as proof to establish fault, and specific details of the accident, such as time, day, exact location, parties involved, etc. Your insurer may send an appraiser to take a closer look at the scene of the accident and the state of the vehicle.
    • If you are deemed not at-fault for an accident by your insurance company, then your car insurance premium will likely not be affected by the accident itself. One potential strategy to maintain cheap car insurance is to continue practicing safe driving habits. However, accidents happen. If you are worried about a future incident affecting your rates, you may be able to purchase first-time accident forgiveness as an optional coverage.