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How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Claim?

How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Claim?

After a car accident, the time-frame for filing a claim is dependent on a number of factors. For one thing, each state has its own set of rules concerning reporting accidents as well as filing different types of claims. State limits for filing claims can be anywhere from immediately to a number of years. Knowing your state’s statute of limitations for filing is necessary as is connecting with an insurance agent who handles car accident claims and can move the claim process along more quickly.

Reporting an Accident

Reporting an accident happens prior to filing an insurance claim and, again, depends on state policies. Most states request that any accident that involves injuries or an excess of $2,000 in damages should be reported immediately. Immediately usually means a phone call to the police or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at the time of the accident. If an accident is minor and no claim comes from it, then filing a police report may be unnecessary; however, even if an accident is minor, contacting the authorities is important as any evidence of possible damages or injuries that occur long after an accident is over may be of help in filing a claim.

If additional time is given to report an accident, delays diminish the validity of the claim. The chances of a claim being fully covered for losses will be in question. Courts, as well as insurance companies, look at police or DMV reports as evidence in order to determine the driver at fault in an accident.

When to Initiate a Claim

Depending on what a vehicle insurance policy states in regard to filing a claim, a policyholder may have to initiate a claim within a certain number of hours (usually 24) or at the time of the accident. These are recommended limits but they are not a requirement as drivers can file a claim within the statute of limitations in the state where the accident happened. A state’s limits are usually such that there is sufficient time to fully assess property damage and serious injury complications that may not be present at the time of the accident.

Types of Claims and Time Limits

Within a state, time limits can vary with the type of claim. The time limits or statutes of limitations are categorized under auto insurance claims that include:

Other Damage Claims

  • property damage to another vehicle
  • collision (damage to your own vehicle)
  • comprehensive (damage to your vehicle through an occurrence not related to a collision, such as natural disasters, vandalism, fire, theft, and other calamities)

Bodily injury claims

  • injury claims that result from a car accident

When to File a Bodily Injury Claim

If injuries occur as the result of a car accident, the passage of time is important in determining the extent of those injuries. Sometimes less serious injuries can have continuing effects that make it hard to function in everyday life. Obviously, more involved injuries are going to require continuous medical attention and are also life-changing.

When medical attention is ongoing, it’s not necessary to wait to file a claim. Rather than waiting, it’s best to initiate the process of whether filing a claim or pursuing a possible lawsuit. A lawsuit will have to meet a filing deadline but the full extent of any injuries and continuing medical attention should be determined before pursuing a claim or lawsuit. Again, it’s important to know the personal injury statute of limitations for the state where the bodily injury occurred.

Passage of Time

Delaying a claim can make it more difficult to justify it over time. Most insurance companies are likely to be distrustful and suspicious of a delayed claim. A holdup could trigger an investigation by an insurance company into why any damages haven’t been handled more quickly. An expanded investigation could turn up information about the damage that occurred through a different accident at a later time. If an insurance company has reason to believe your initial claim never happened or you’re fudging on time, your coverage could be denied.

Once a car accident has occurred, there are certain steps to follow in filing a claim. A full assessment of any damages or injuries needs to be taken into account. Reporting an accident whether it’s a minor or major one should take place quickly. Filing an actual claim should follow with further evaluation of damages and injuries. If you are unsure as to when a claim should be filed, complete the online contact form and a representative will get back to you with the answers you need to pursue your claim in a timely manner.

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