How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Claim

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The time limit to file a car insurance claim after an accident is set by each state's government, and it ranges from one to 10 years.

Additionally, even within the same jurisdiction, the time limit may vary for differing claim types (with the limit for, say, a comprehensive claim differing from that for injury or property damage).

Consult the tables below to determine the statute of limitations your state has set for you to file a claim, and keep in mind that contacting your insurance agent as early as possible will ease the claims process.

How Long do You Have to File a Claim or Lawsuit?

You can only file a claim or lawsuit within your state's liability time limit—also known as a "statute of limitations." Each state governs its own statutes of limitations, and different types of damages, such as bodily injury or property damage, have different time limits.

Your auto insurance policy might state that you should initiate the claims process at the time of the incident, or within 24 hours of when the damage to your vehicle was done.

While strongly recommended, this time frame is not a requirement, and it does not preclude you or another driver from filing a claim or lawsuit months or even years later, as long as the claim is filed within the statute of limitations of the state where the accident occurred. This is useful and necessary, since some injuries and mechanical damage is not apparent until days or weeks after an accident occurs.

However, be aware that the longer you wait to file a claim, the harder it might be for you to defend it.

Insurance companies may be highly suspicious of significantly delayed claims, and will investigate whether the damage you're claiming actually resulted from the covered accident rather than, deceptively, from a later incident. If they have legitimate reasons to doubt your claim, they may deny coverage.

Typically, auto insurance claims will fall under one of two statues of limitation:

  • One that limits the time limit for bodily injury claims
  • Another that limits the time limit for other damage claims, including property damage (damage done to another vehicle), collision damage (damage done to your own vehicle), and comprehensive damage (damage done to your own vehicle from a non-collision event, like theft or vandalism).

Statute of Limitations on Car Insurance Claims by State

StateBodily InjuryProperty/Collision/Comprehensive Damage
Alabama2 years2 years
Alaska2 years2 years
Arizona2 years2 years
Arkansas3 years3 years
California2 years2 years
Colorado3 years3 years
Connecticut2 years2 years
Delaware2 years2 years
Florida4 years4 years
Georgia2 years4 years
Hawaii2 years2 years
Idaho2 years2 years
Illinois2 years5 years
Indiana2 years2 years
Iowa2 years5 years
Kansas1 year2 years
Kentucky1 year2 years
Louisiana1 year1 year
Maine6 years6 years
Maryland3 years3 years
Massachusetts3 years3 years
Michigan3 years3 years
Minnesota6 years6 years
Mississippi3 years3 years
Missouri5 years5 years
Montana3 years2 years
Nebraska4 years4 years
Nevada1 year1 year
New Hampshire3 years3 years
New Jersey2 years6 years
New Mexico3 years4 years
New York3 years3 years
North Carolina3 years3 years
North Dakota2 years2 years
Ohio2 years2 years
Oklahoma2 years2 years
Oregon2 years6 years
Pennsylvania2 years2 years
Rhode Island3 years10 years
South Carolina3 years3 years
South Dakota3 years3 years
Tennessee1 year3 years
Texas2 years2 years
Utah4 years3 years
Vermont3 years3 years
Virginia2 years5 years
Washington3 years3 years
Washington, D.C.3 years3 years
West Virginia2 years2 years
Wisconsin3 years3 years
Wyoming4 years4 years

If another driver was at fault for your accident, and it occurred in a no-fault state, you'll need to file your initial claim under your own collision or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy first.

However, you still can file a claim against the other driver if you suffer from ongoing or permanent physical injuries, and the cost of treatment exceeds your policy's coverage.

How Long do You Have to Report a Car Accident

The number of days you have to report a car accident to the DMV or police varies by state. In the most minor of accidents, after which no insurance claim will be filed, reporting an accident might not be required at all. However, most states legally require you to report accidents that result in injury or involve more than $2,000 of property damage.

Since certain injuries and damage are not apparent until days or weeks later, we recommend always contacting the police immediately after an accident. Their report will provide useful evidence for all reports you file with the DMV and any claims you might file with your auto insurance company.

Here are the time limits for reporting a car accident in each state. Where reporting is required “immediately,” it’s typically expected that you'll notify the police via phone from the scene of the accident.

  • Alabama: 30 days
  • Alaska: 10 days
  • Arizona: Immediately
  • Arkansas: 30 days to file a motor vehicle accident report, 90 days to provide proof of insurance.
  • California: 10 days
  • Colorado: Immediately
  • Connecticut: Immediately
  • Delaware: Immediately
  • Florida: 10 days
  • Georgia: Immediately
  • Hawaii: Immediately
  • Idaho: Immediately
  • Illinois: 10 days
  • Indiana: Immediately
  • Iowa: Immediately
  • Kansas: Immediately
  • Kentucky: 10 days
  • Louisiana: Immediately
  • Maine: Immediately
  • Maryland: 15 days
  • Massachusetts: Five days
  • Michigan: Immediately
  • Minnesota: 10 days
  • Mississippi: Immediately
  • Missouri: 30 days
  • Montana: Immediately
  • Nebraska: 10 days
  • Nevada: Immediately
  • New Hampshire: 15 days
  • New Jersey: Immediately
  • New Mexico: Immediately
  • New York: Five days
  • North Carolina: Immediately
  • North Dakota: Immediately
  • Ohio: Six months
  • Oklahoma: Immediately
  • Oregon: Three days
  • Pennsylvania: Five days
  • Rhode Island: 21 days
  • South Carolina: 15 days
  • South Dakota: Immediately
  • Tennessee: 20 days
  • Texas: 10 days
  • Utah: Immediately
  • Vermont: Five days
  • Virginia: Immediately
  • Washington: Four days
  • West Virginia: Five days
  • Wisconsin: Immediately
  • Wyoming: 10 days

While you may have anywhere from few hours to several weeks to report an accident, failing to do so immediately after the collision will likely delay your claim and diminish your chances of recovering your losses.

Insurance companies and courts rely on police reports as a vital piece of evidence, and unless an officer was able to assess the scene of the incident, insurers might not be able to clearly determine who was at fault.

Daniel is a former Staff Writer at ValuePenguin, covering insurance, retirement and other personal finance topics. He previously wrote about compliance and best practices for K-12 school districts at Frontline Education.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.