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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After an accident, the amount of time you have to file a car insurance claim after an accident is set by each state's government, and it ranges from one to 10 years.

The time limit can vary for different claim types, even within the same jurisdiction. For example, the time allowed for a comprehensive claim might differ from that for injury or property damage.

See the tables below for your state’s statute of limitations for filing a claim. 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 file a claim or lawsuit only within your state's liability time limit—known as the "statute of limitations." Each state has its own statutes of limitations, and there are different time limits for various types of damages, such as bodily injury or property damage.

Statute of Limitations on Car Insurance Claims by State

Bodily Injury
Property/Collision/Comprehensive Damage
Alabama2 years2 years
Alaska2 years2 years
Arizona2 years2 years
Arkansas3 years3 years
California2 years2 years
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You should know that your auto insurance policy might say that you should initiate the claims process right away at the time of the incident, or within 24 hours of when the damage to your vehicle was done. But this is not the last word.

However, the shorter time frame stated on your policy 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 it is within the statute of limitations of the state where the accident occurred. This is because some injuries and mechanical damage are 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 suspicious of significantly delayed claims and will investigate whether the damage truly resulted from the covered accident or from a later incident. If they have legitimate reasons to doubt your claim, they may deny coverage.

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

  • A time limit for bodily injury claims
  • Another time limit for other claims, including property damage (to another vehicle), collision damage (to your own vehicle), and comprehensive damage (to your own vehicle from theft or vandalism).

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

However, you also 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 amount of time you have to report a car accident to the DMV or police varies by state. In minor accidents, after which no insurance claim will be filed, reporting might not be required at all. However, most states require you to report accidents resulting in injury or involving more than $2,000 of property damage.

Since certain injuries and 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.

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 call the police from the scene of the accident.

Time limit
Alabama30 days
Alaska10 days
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 claims 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.

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