Sometimes it’s not possible to file a claim immediately after an accident. You may be in a different country, you may have never been in an accident before, or the accident may not seem big enough to file a claim.
In the United States, it depends on each state’s laws and regulations. Generally speaking, you can file a claim anywhere between 1 to 10 years depending on which state you live in. It all depends on the type of accident and the type of claim, as injury claims may take a different time to be filed than property damage claims.
So, just how long after an accident can you file a claim? Let’s go through all of the vital steps.
How long do I have to report an accident?
Reporting an accident is the first step to filing a claim. Depending on each insurance policy, it is recommended to report an accident as soon as possible.
If the accident is minor, you probably won’t require the help from law enforcement. If the accident is more serious and injury has occured or could happen in the future, it is best to call 911.
It will take a while for responders to arrive at the scene, but a police report will be your best form of evidence for filing a claim.
Statute of Limitations
Each state will have a specific time period where a claim can be filed, known as the “statute of limitations”.
Any report made after this time period will seem suspicious to insurance companies, because how else will they be sure that you haven’t inflicted the accident upon yourself in the hopes to get some money in return?
To put it simply, the faster you report an accident and file a claim, the better the chance of a successful claim.
However, sometimes it’s not as easy as this. A victim may walk away from an accident seemingly unharmed, but they could develop serious injuries weeks or months after the incident. Same goes for damage to the vehicle.
As there can be a delay to the after effects of an accident, auto insurance claims are usually split into two statute of limitations time limits: a time limit for damage to a vehicle or property, and a time limit for injury.
Here are some state’s statute of limitations:
As you can see from these few examples, each state will have their own statute of limitations that must be followed to present a viable claim.
How long should I take to call 911?
This sort of depends on what state you live in and the extremity of the accident. If you walk away unharmed and no other person involved is hurt, you don’t need to call 911. If harm has been caused to a person and/or vehicle, then it’s an obligation to call the police.
Some states require this report to be immediate, whilst others allow a 30 day time bracket. It’s best to call the law enforcement when you are by the car/cars involved in the accident so they can gather all of the necessary information, including time, place, and witnesses. This will be highly beneficial to your claim.
Here are some examples of states that have a time limit on reporting an accident:
- New York: 5 days
- California: 10 days
- Florida: 10 days
- Alabama: 30 days
- Ohio: 6 months
- Texas: 10 days
- North Carolina: Immediately
- Michigan: Immediately
As stated before, the sooner you report an accident, the higher the chance of a successful outcome to the claim. This is because insurers will have trust in an officer’s official report as they were there on the scene of the accident, and will have a better idea at who is at fault.
Information to Collect
Whether you or the other driver(s) is looking to file a claim, the first thing to do after reporting the accident should be to collect the appropriate information. This includes name, phone number or email address, insurance provider, license plate number and make of car, and their policy number. Eyewitnesses are also useful for gathering information to provide more evidence, as well as the name on the badge of the officer who reports the accident.
As with any form of accident, take lots of pictures and videos if possible. This goes from damage to the vehicle(s), property damage, and physical damage. Videos are great forms of evidence as they cannot be doctored as easily as images.
Contacting Your Insurer
As with contacting the law enforcement, the sooner you contact your insurer the better the chance of a successful claim.
If you could contact them whilst you’re waiting for a police officer to arrive at the scene of the accident, this is as good as it gets! You could either call them directly, or find the claim resources on their website.
Obviously a written-off car that is completely destroyed at the side of a road isn’t ideal, but if you contact your insurer immediately at this point, they will most likely offer a tow truck. These instances mean that the claim can be sorted much faster, as the insurer will then organize a time to investigate the vehicle.
What if I file a claim too late?
Whilst there is a lengthy time period to file a claim in the majority of states, this does not mean you can wait beyond the statute of limitations.
If you try to file a claim past this time period there’s a high chance that your insurer will not allow the claim to be filed. Regardless, if you find yourself in pain months after the accident, there’s no harm in calling your insurer to try and file a claim.
To avoid a claim being denied, always report an accident as immediately as possible. Gather as much information as you can to prove that your injury has come from that specific accident rather than another possible accident.
Unfortunately, there’s no universal time period to file a claim as it depends completely on the state’s statute of limitations and the damage caused.
We recommend always making an immediate report and to gather as much evidence and information as possible to increase your chances of a successful claim.