Whether you’re on your way to work, driving home from a family road trip, or running errands, there’s never a good time to be in a car accident. Regardless of who’s at fault, there are a few things you’ll need to take care of, and relatively quickly, after the incident.
Of course, proper medical attention should be your first priority in the event that you or one of your passengers is seriously injured. but you may also be wondering how long you have to report a car accident to your insurer, whether the accident needs to be reported, how long you have to file a lawsuit (if that’s what it is), and other time-related issues.
Below, you’ll find general answers to these questions, including information about the statutes of limitations for accident claims and how soon certain steps must be taken after a car accident.
should you report a car accident?
There may be instances when you don’t want to report a car accident at all, but they are rare. For example, if you were to scrape your car door against a steel beam while backing out of a parking space, you probably wouldn’t want to report it if the repair is estimated to cost the same or less than your insurance deductible. Also, your insurer may decide to increase your rates after such a report, especially if you have prior claims, although premium increases are unpredictable. But even low-speed collisions with seemingly minor damage can cost several thousand dollars to repair. For example, in 2020, the average property damage claim was $4,711.
Just keep in mind that since you are responsible for any damage to another party’s property if it is your fault, even in a single vehicle accident, you will want to contact your insurer after a car accident in most cases. In addition, many policies have a provision that requires you to report and cooperate with the insurance company in its investigation of any third-party claims against you. To preserve your coverage, you’ll want to make sure you report the accident, especially if there’s a chance that the other party may file a claim against you.
You can also contact your insurance company, even if it’s not your fault, and also file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
how much time do you have to report it?
The short answer is that you should report the accident as soon as possible, including at the scene of the accident if possible (most insurers have 24-hour accident claim hotlines and mobile claims apps). If it’s a single vehicle accident and you’re not even sure to call, you’ll probably want to read your policy and make an informed decision once you can reasonably do so.
Many insurance companies require policyholders to file claims within a specific time period after the accident occurs, but these limits are not made public and are specific to each policy. if you are not sure, ask your insurance agent.
Car Accident Lawsuits and the Statute of Limitations
Lawsuits are the exception when it comes to a car accident, but are sometimes necessary if the insurance company does not adequately cover your damages. That said, each state has strict time limits, called civil statutes of limitations, for filing a lawsuit. time begins to “run” on the day of the incident. therefore, if you wait six months after an accident to file an insurance claim but then decide to sue, you already have six months on the statute of limitations.
States also have different time limits for different types of claims. In Illinois, for example, you have two years to file a personal injury claim, but five years for “damage” to personal property (in this case, damage to your vehicle).
involved in a car accident? consider speaking to an attorney
Whether you are planning to file a lawsuit or just need to make an insurance claim for a car accident, time is of the essence. If you have additional questions about how long you have to report a car accident or related matters, an injury attorney in your area may be able to help.