How Long Do I Have to Report a Car Accident to Insurance?

Amidst the grinding metal and jarring impacts involved in any type of auto accident, it can be understandably difficult to keep track of dates for filing ensuing claims for compensation. It doesn’t help that insurance companies are not always forthcoming with information about how and when policyholders should submit their claims in order to maximize their chances of getting the recovery they need.

If you are wondering how long you have to report a car accident to your insurance provider, the most universally accurate answer is, unfortunately, “It depends on your policy.” However, there are a few more objective deadlines for other kinds of car accident claims that you should be aware of, in large part because they can have a significant effect on your ability to recover compensation through your car insurance policy.

Reporting Requirements Under State Law

Broadly speaking, it is always a good idea to contact law enforcement as soon as you reach a safe place immediately following a car crash. Aside from the ensuing police report potentially providing critical evidence for future insurance and/or personal injury claims, summoning police to the scene of a wreck is legally required under certain circumstances in every U.S. state.

The specific requirements vary by area, but in general it is necessary under state law to formally report any car accident that results in someone getting hurt or killed, or that results in damage to property other than the vehicle(s) directly involved in the incident. In addition to contacting law enforcement at the accident scene, state laws generally also mandate the filing of a written accident report with appropriate state authorities—and potentially with other parties as well, including people involved in the wreck—within 24 hours of the incident.

Filing Deadlines for Insurance Claims

Car accident insurance claims do not have quite as strict a filing deadline as state-mandated accident reports, but their deadlines are also not as clearly defined. Many insurance policies just state that policyholders seeking coverage after a wreck should file claims “as soon as possible,” without specifying a date by which a claim must be filed in order to be valid.

Generally, anyone who wants to give themselves the best chances possible of a successful resolution to their car insurance claim should submit that claim no later than 30 days after the accident in question. However, you should still read the terms of your specific insurance policy to make sure you are complying with them, as failing to file in what your personal insurer considers to be a timely fashion could restrict your recovery options regardless of what the general trend is.

What If Insurance Does Not Offer Enough Coverage?

If you file your car insurance claim on time but either do not have enough coverage or are not offered enough compensation to address all your accident-related losses, you should keep in mind that third-party litigation against someone who is ostensibly at fault for a wreck has filing deadlines as well. Depending on the state, this deadline could be anywhere from one to five years after a prospective plaintiff discovers they were hurt by another person’s negligence. However, there are some exceptions under specific circumstances that, if applicable, a seasoned auto accident lawyer could discuss in more detail.