How Long After an Accident Can You File a Claim?

How Long After an Accident Can You File a Claim?

Written by Dennis Grossman

Attorney Dennis Grossman has managed thousands of cases, obtaining millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards for his clients.

Photo of an insurance officer checking damage

An auto insurance claim isn’t one size fits all. Most car insurance claims have unique parameters to determine when the statute of limitations reaches its limit. Numerous states give you two years to file an auto insurance claim. However, where your accident took place will determine if you have one to ten years to file.

The timeline at work in your claims process hinges on your insurance company’s ability to investigate your claim. If you’ve been involved in an auto accident and desire to get the claims process started, you’ll need to get familiar with the following:

  • Deadlines for filing an insurance claim 
  • Deadlines for filing a lawsuit after a car accident
  • Your insurance company’s requirements for promptly starting a claim or report

Delaying your claim will be an issue if it affects the insurer’s ability to investigate when an accident occurred. Your insurer will also look to deny your claim if any delay causes them a  financial cost. If you’re unfamiliar with your state’s statute of limitations and not sure how you’ll hold the parties involved liable, read on for more information about claim deadlines and liability. 

Auto Insurance Coverage Options and Deadlines

A deadline to report an accident and for filing a car insurance claim refers to the amount of time that can (or should) pass between the occurrence of the car accident and your initiation of the claim process. Insurance companies will be suspicious of significantly delayed claims and will investigate whether the damage actually resulted from the covered accident. 

Starting the Bodily Injury Claims Process

Starting the insurance claim process entails letting a representative of the insurance company know that you’ve been in an accident and intend to file a claim for your car accident injuries, property damage, or both. Contacting your insurance agent as early as possible will lessen the intensity of the claims process.

Insurer Deadlines Versus Lawsuit Deadlines

Insurance deadlines are unlike lawsuit-filing deadlines. Lawsuit deadlines are strictly enforced and are set by state laws called statutes of limitations. Insurer deadlines are determined by the language in your insurance information. 

The precise deadline for filing a claim will vary depending on your particular auto coverage. Most policies do not provide a strict deadline and encourage claimants to make their claim “promptly” or “within a reasonable time.”

How Long Do You Have to File a Claim?

The basis for time requirements is to protect the insurer’s ability to investigate the specifics of your claim. Policyholders have an obligation to take reasonable steps to help their insurer confirm the claimed damages. 

 As long as your delay in reporting the claim in no way prevents your car insurance company from investigating your claim, then you can probably report the claim as long as you have existing coverage.

Photo of an Insurance Claim Form

If the late filing of your claim is detrimental to the car insurance company’s investigative process, then they most likely will use the late filing as a reason to deny the claim. However, insurers can be liable for bad faith denials of an injury claim when they inappropriately deny your claim. By waiting to file the claim, you give your car insurance company easy justification for denying your claim. 

Just because your claim is denied doesn’t mean your accident isn’t covered. This may mean that to recover the damages you’ve lost, you may have no choice but to sue your car insurance company. California’s statute of limitations gives you two years but if your claim has been denied, speak with one of our attorneys at the Grossman Law Offices right away. 

Benefits of Starting the Insurance Claim Process ASAP

Getting the claim process started can benefit everyone, especially the claimant. Here are some of the benefits claimants can take advantage of when starting their claim process:

  • Evidence will be easier to gather, leading to a more effective investigation
  • Witness memories will be fresh
  • The details of the accident and the impact of your injuries will be clearer
  • The sooner you get the claim process started, the sooner you could receive a settlement

Steps To Take When You’ve Delayed Your Insurance Claim Process

If you’ve delayed filing a car insurance claim after an accident that caused you significant injuries, it might make sense to discuss your situation with a skilled legal professional. Having the right lawyer on your side can make a big difference when things get adversarial.

The longer you wait to make a claim, the more likely your insurer will deny your claim. But, since certain types of injuries and property damage won’t immediately show until days or weeks after the accident, it may not benefit you to start your claim immediately. 

However, it’s imperative that you file your claim within the deadlines issued in the state where the accident occurred. The other driver’s insurance company may become suspicious if you wait too long to file your claim. They may even assert the damages you’ve incurred happened after the accident. 

Who is liable when I file a claim?

If you’ve been involved in an accident in California, then you’ll file your claim under your collision or personal injury protection (PIP) insurance when other drivers are at fault. Failure to report the car accident within ten days to the DMV can result in losing your driving privileges. Getting a California Highway Patrol (CHP) to write and file a police report on your accident can help you recover what you’ve lost. 

The police report serves as evidence for all reports you file with the DMV and any claims you might file with your auto insurance company. The steps you take after your accident can drastically affect its outcome. Speak with an auto accident claims attorney at the Grossman Law Offices for concrete steps on how to address your collision repercussions. 

Before Filing A Vehicle Damage Claim

There are several important steps to take after an accident before filing your insurance injury claim. Gather the contact information of the other driver and any witnesses at the scene of the accident. Take photos and videos of the crash site, damages, and surrounding area. 

We also encourage you to write down the responding police officer’s name and learn how you can acquire the official accident report. In terms of documentation you’ll need to complete your claim, gather items such as the at-fault driver’s:

If your insurer is already aware that the accident happened because you went through the proper reporting procedures, you’re more than likely to file a successful claim. Before you contact your insurance company to file a claim yourself, consider first securing a car accident attorney with the necessary experience to advocate on your behalf.

Photo of an executive signing document

How A Car Accident Attorney Can Help With Your Claim

The experienced tort law attorneys at the Grossman Law Offices are prepared to handle all of the details after a car accident. We have experience navigating those often confusing auto insurance policy requirements and the state-specific statute of limitations.

We can offer insight on what not to say when filing personal injury claims. Rather than suffer through this process alone, we suggest that you seek the help of a qualified car accident lawyer who can argue for fair compensation after your car crash.

Our attorneys will not let you settle for the bare minimum compensation that the insurer offers. Instead, we will gather all the necessary documentation, like medical expenses and costly vehicle repairs, and create a solid case when insurers refuse to pay. We will negotiate with the insurance company and file a lawsuit when necessary to help you recover what you’re owed.

We urge all car accident victims to look into the claim process as soon as possible. Ideally, you should speak to a lawyer within one week of your accident. Your lawyer can help you decide if you have a case and what the next steps are. Remember, California is a no-fault state, so your property damage may not be relegated to the other driver’s insurer but your own.
Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices are familiar with our state’s statute of limitations and can hold the at-fault driver responsible when an insurer refuses to compensate you for certain injuries. After the police arrive at the scene of your accident, consider hiring a professional attorney to help you deal with the damage, deadlines, and aftermath of your accident.