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How long do you have to report a car accident to your insurance?

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When you get involved in a traffic accident that causes damages and injuries, no matter how small, you should 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 can impact your insurance premiums, so insurers want to be updated on them. Depending on which state you live in, you may have anywhere between one and ten 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?

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 can be helpful to consult both of these resources. Staying aware of the allotted time for claim filing can 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. However, 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 has the right to reject your claim. You could retain an accident attorney to dispute this, but it may be at your own cost.

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 can 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 include:

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

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:

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, all parties should file a police report.

A car accident police report limit may vary by state. When you file an insurance claim, your insurer will ask for a formal police report. This is why the sooner you get it done, the smoother the claims process will be for you.

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Cynthia Widmayer
Insurance Contributor
Cynthia Widmayer is an insurance contributor for Bankrate and has over two years of experience as a personal finance writer. She covers home, car and life insurance products for Bankrate, The Simple Dollar and Coverage.com among others.
Edited by
Insurance Editor