How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Claim

How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Claim

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Most states give you two years to file a car insurance claim, but depending on where your accident happened, you may have from one to 10 years to file.

Time limits can vary by claim type, even within the same state. For example, the time allowed for a comprehensive claim may be different from a bodily injury claim.

How long do you have to file a claim or lawsuit?

Each state has its own "statute of limitations," which tells you how long you can wait to file a claim or lawsuit, and it can differ depending on the type of claim, like bodily injury or property damage.

Statute of limitations on car insurance claims by state

State
Bodily injury
Property/collision/comprehensive damage
AlabamaTwo yearsTwo years
AlaskaTwo yearsTwo years
ArizonaTwo yearsTwo years
ArkansasThree yearsThree years
CaliforniaTwo yearsTwo years
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What happens if you don't file a claim right away?

The longer you wait to make a claim, the more likely your insurer will investigate, and possibly deny, your claim.

Your auto insurance policy may say that you should start your claim right away, or no more than 24 hours after the damage to your vehicle was done.

However, waiting longer won't prevent you or another driver from filing a claim or lawsuit months or years later — as long as your claim is filed within the state laws. This is because some injuries or types of mechanical damage aren't noticeable until days or weeks after an accident happens.

If you or another driver waits to file a claim, insurance companies may be suspicious of why you waited to file. They will often investigate whether the damage was actually a result of the covered accident, or if the damage came after. If they find legitimate reasons to doubt your claim, they may deny coverage.

Do I make the claim through my insurance or the other driver's?

File your claim under your own collision or personal injury protection (PIP) insurance if:

  • Another driver was at fault
  • The accident happened in a no-fault state

File your claim through the other driver's insurance if:

  • You suffer from ongoing or permanent physical injuries
  • Your treatment costs are greater than your policy coverage

How long do you have to report a car accident?

Most states require you to report an accident right away, but some states do allow up to 30 days. In the states where you are required to report immediately, it is expected that you will call the police at the scene of the accident.

State
Time limit
Alabama30 days
Alaska10 days
ArizonaImmediately
Arkansas30 days to file a motor vehicle accident report, 90 days to provide proof of insurance
California10 days
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While you may be allowed a few hours to several weeks to report an accident, doing so immediately after the collision will likely smooth your claim process and increase your chances of recovering your losses. Insurance companies and courts rely on police reports as vital evidence, and having an officer assess the scene of the incident assists insurers in determining clearly who was at fault.

Do you have to report a car accident?

In minor accidents where no insurance claim will be filed, reporting may not be required at all. Most states require you to report accidents with injuries or more than $2,000 of property damage.

Still, since certain injuries and types of vehicle damage are not apparent until days or weeks later, it's always best to contact the police immediately after an accident. The police report will be evidence for all reports you file with the DMV and any claims you might file with your auto insurance company.

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