How long after a car accident can you file a claim?


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Written by
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UPDATED: 2020-02-26T00:17:18.350Z
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man filing a car insurance claim

Filing a car insurance claim isn’t a fun or easy process for anyone. First, there’s the car accident itself to contend with — the psychological turmoil of the accident and the injuries, and assessing the damage. And then trying to figure out how to file a claim and wondering how long after an accident you can file a claim. To make matters more complicated, each state is governed by its own laws and regulations regarding claims.

Ask car insurance companies or a lawyer about how long after an accident you can file a claim or lawsuit and you’ll probably be told to refer to your car insurance company’s policy details. Insurers usually provide a 24-hour window to report an accident. But here’s the thing: a 24-hour window that the car insurance company gives you is just a vague guideline. If you miss this 24-hour window, you don’t have to worry about being denied insurance coverage because you have until your state’s statute of limitations (for property damage and injury to persons) to file a claim.

Here’s some more good news that may come as a surprise. It doesn't matter if you’ve changed your car insurance company several times over or if your insurance has been cancelled sometime after the accident. You can file a claim as long as your vehicle was insured at the time of the accident.

Is reporting an accident the same as filing a claim?

No – reporting an accident and filing a claim are two entirely different processes, but both must be followed.

The first step is to report the accident. Insurance companies expect you to do this by reporting the incident to the police within 24 hours. Some insurance companies have a mobile app that helps make reporting the accident quicker and easier.

The second step is to file a claim. You’ll have more time to do this. Check with your car insurance company regarding how much time you have and you can also ask about your state’s statute of limitations.

Unfortunately at this point, you aren’t quite done yet. There’s a third step that involves filing all the relevant documents pertaining to the accident. Your auto insurance company will usually give you as little as a couple of weeks to do this.

When is the best time after an accident to file a claim?

The best time to file a claim after an accident is as soon as possible. As mentioned earlier, car insurance companies typically provide guidelines to file a claim within 24 hours. You’re at an advantage when you do this because the chances of your claim being accepted without any hassles are much higher. When you miss this 24-hour window, you still have your state’s statute of limitations date to fall back on, but you may experience more pushback and setbacks along the way; and a payout may not be possible. This is because the longer you put off filing a claim after an accident, the more difficult it will be for the car insurance company to determine how much damage was done at the time of the accident. For example, let’s say you crack a fender during an accident and put off filing a claim. A year down the road this crack widens and the fender eventually breaks off. How is the insurance company going to calculate the extent of the damage caused by the accident that occurred a year ago?

Here is something else to think about when you ask: how long after an accident can you file a claim? If the fault was not yours and you file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and their insurance failed to cover the damage done to your vehicle or cover your medical bills, you'll have time to contest this and file a lawsuit against this second party if your state permits it.

What happens if I miss my state’s statute of limitations date?

This is a risk not worth taking. If you miss your state’s statute of limitations date, you'll not be permitted legal backing and you're unlikelyo receive a payout from your insurance company.

Are you in the market for new car insurance? Drivers who switch companies report an average savings of nearly $400 a year! See who consumers rate as the best car insurance companies in your area.


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