Determining when to report an accident to insurance is pivotal in the aftermath of a car-related incident. Understanding the timeframe within which you need to report an accident is not only essential for adhering to regulatory requirements but also for ensuring the smooth processing of any potential insurance claims. Given that such incidents are recorded on your driving history and can influence your insurance rates for several years, it’s important for your insurer to be informed promptly. This guide aims to shed light on the critical timelines and considerations you should be aware of following a car accident. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you can navigate the post-accident procedures with confidence, ensuring that your rights are protected and your recovery process is as seamless as possible.

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

Requirements for reporting accidents to your insurance provider vary. Every state has a different statute of limitations when it comes to how long you have to report a car accident. The standard across most states is within 10 days of the accident but some jurisdictions, such as New York, have a 24-hour reporting requirement. The time limit could also vary depending on the type of damage involved. For example, the statute of limitations for filing a bodily injury claim may be shorter than it is for filing comprehensive or property damage claims.

Your car insurance company may have its own protocols for claims filing, too. Check your policy for details. 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.

Learn more: 7 steps to take after an auto accident

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 for you, it could be a good idea to wait to file a claim. Most insurance professionals recommend consulting your insurance company on the appropriate timeline for your claim.

Regardless, it’s important to be aware of your state’s statute of limitations and file a claim within the timeframe set by your state’s insurance laws. Depending on the state you live in, you typically have three years or less after the accident date to file a claim. If you file later than is mandated, the insurer may have the right to reject your claim.

Learn more: Should I file an insurance claim for bumper damage?

Statute of limitations by state

Each state has its own statute of limitations for claim filing, 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. And not filing an accident report within the state-established timeframe could lead to the denial of your claim at a later date. 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.

Your car insurance company may have a specific deadline for filing a claim that is different than the state’s statute of limitations. Make sure to read your policy documents for details.

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

Filing a car accident report with your police department should be done as soon as possible after an accident, especially if there are 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 to be filed immediately. Also, in Texas, if a law enforcement officer investigates a motor vehicle crash that results in injury, death or property damage of $1,000 or more, they are required to submit a crash report to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) within 10 days of the incident. 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.

When you file an insurance claim, your insurer will likely ask for a copy of the police report. Therefore, getting it done sooner may make the claims process easier for you.

Frequently asked questions

    • While not every car insurance claim necessitates a police report, having one is crucial for claims involving significant vehicle damage or personal injuries. A formal police report lends credibility to your claim, helping insurance companies to thoroughly assess the incident and determine responsibility. Additionally, in situations where legal action against the other party might be considered for recovery of damages, a police report becomes an essential piece of evidence. For specific requirements and guidance, it’s advisable to consult directly with your insurance provider.
    • When reporting an accident to your insurance company, you have several options including phone calls, online forms or through the insurer’s mobile app. It’s important to gather as much information as possible, such as a detailed police report, clear photos or videos of the damage and comprehensive details about the accident including the exact location, time and parties involved. This documentation helps streamline the claim process. Your insurer might also arrange for a vehicle inspection to assess the damages firsthand. For step-by-step instructions, consider visiting your insurance company’s official website or contacting their customer service for assistance.
    • 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.
    • Deciding where to file a claim post-accident—through your insurance or the other driver’s—can depend on several factors, such as fault determination and the specifics of your policy. If the other driver is at fault and has insurance, you might file a third-party claim with their insurer. However, in situations where fault is unclear, or the other driver is uninsured, you may need to rely on your own insurance, particularly if you have collision or uninsured motorist coverage. In no-fault states, all claims need to be filed with your own insurer regardless of who caused the accident. It’s crucial to assess the accident’s details and consult your policy or insurance agent for tailored advice, ensuring you make an informed decision that aligns with your best interest.