If you are involved in a traffic accident — even a minor one — most insurance experts recommend reporting it to your insurance company as soon as you can. Since traffic incidents are listed on your driving record, they may impact your insurance premiums, so insurers want to be updated when they take place. Reporting an accident to your insurer, however, is not the same as filing a claim, although they may be done simultaneously in some circumstances.


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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 filing an insurance claim for an auto accident. 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 the government. 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, 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 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. 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

    • 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.
    • You can typically report an accident to your insurance company by phone, online or via the company’s mobile app. If you are filing a claim, you will probably need the police report, pictures and videos of the damage and specific details about the accident, such as time, day, exact location, parties involved, etc. Your insurer may send an appraiser to take a closer look at the state of the vehicle, as well.
    • 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.