Insurance claims can help you cover medical and repair expenses following a car crash. But the amount of time you have to file a claim after an accident varies by state. If you do not file a claim within that time limit, you will not receive financial compensation.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 1.3 million people die every year from car accidents, and between 20 and 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries. Between medical expenses, repair costs, and missing work, car accidents can become life-altering and pricey. This is where filing an insurance claim becomes important.
Auto insurance claims can help you receive financial compensation for property damage and medical expenses from an automobile accident. This can come as a huge relief for many people, and it’s important to file an insurance claim as soon as possible. This is because each state has its own deadlines on when you can submit a claim. If you do not submit a claim within the given time limit, you likely won’t receive the financial help you need.
Keep reading to find out more about car insurance claims, what they can help with, and how long you have to report an accident.
What is a car insurance claim?
An auto insurance claim is your request for reimbursement from an insurance company after you’ve experienced injuries or vehicle damage from a car accident. So, for example, if you broke your arm in a car accident that was not your fault, you could file a claim, and the other driver’s insurance company may cover your medical expenses.
What does insurance cover?
What an auto insurance company covers depends on the plan. But, generally speaking, an auto insurance company will cover car repairs, medical bills, and income loss for those not at fault. “Not at fault” means that you did not cause the accident. A driver could be found “at fault” for causing the accident by speeding, rear-ending the other vehicle, having faulty equipment, texting while driving, and drunk driving — just to name some examples.
Key auto insurance coverage options
Again, what the car insurance company covers depends on the plan. Here’s a basic outline of what some coverage options include.
- Collision insurance: Covers any damages done to the vehicle by hitting a fence, tree, or other objects.
- Comprehensive insurance: Helps cover damages done to your vehicle by vandalism and natural disasters.
- Liability insurance: May cover the costs of a person’s injuries or damaged property from the accident.
- Personal injury protection (PIP): Helps cover medical expenses you experienced from the car accident, as well as child care or lost income.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage: Can help pay medical bills or pay for vehicle repairs if the other driver does not have insurance.
- Medical payments coverage: Covers medical expenses for you and everyone else who was in the vehicle when the accident occurred.
Claim vs. lawsuits
Claims and lawsuits are two options that should be used under different circumstances. While both methods seek monetary compensation, they obtain that money (when they succeed) from two different parties.
- Claims request compensation from an insurance company after an accident occurs.
- Lawsuits are when one party sues another party for monetary compensation. Lawsuits are often filed only after a claim has been denied, or if settling the claim has been unsuccessful.
Generally speaking, a person would file a claim first, then file a lawsuit if the claim was ineffective.
How long after my accident can I file a claim?
There’s not a universal deadline for when you can file an auto insurance claim. The statute of limitations for car insurance claims varies depending on which state you live in. Some states have a 30-day time limit, while others allow a 3-year time frame. The statute of limitations is also different for bodily injury vs. property damage. For example, in New Jersey, you only have two years to file a claim for bodily injury, while you have six for a property damage claim.
Statute of limitations by state
Find your state on the table below to find out its statutes of limitations for bodily injury and property damage claims.
|State||Bodily injury||Property damage|
|Alabama||2 years||2 years|
|Alaska||2 years||2 years|
|Arizona||2 years||2 years|
|Arkansas||3 years||3 years|
|California||2 years||3 years|
|Colorado||3 years||3 years|
|Connecticut||2 years||2 years|
|Delaware||2 years||2 years|
|Florida||4 years||4 years|
|Georgia||2 years||4 years|
|Hawaii||2 years||2 years|
|Idaho||2 years||2 years|
|Illinois||2 years||5 years|
|Indiana||2 years||2 years|
|Iowa||2 years||5 years|
|Kansas||1 year||2 years|
|Kentucky||1 year||2 years|
|Louisiana||1 year||1 year|
|Maine||6 years||6 years|
|Maryland||3 years||3 years|
|Massachusetts||3 years||3 years|
|Michigan||3 years||3 years|
|Minnesota||6 years||6 years|
|Mississippi||3 years||3 years|
|Missouri||5 years||5 years|
|Montana||3 years||2 years|
|Nebraska||4 years||4 years|
|Nevada||1 year||1 year|
|New Hampshire||3 years||3 years|
|New Jersey||2 years||6 years|
|New Mexico||3 years||4 years|
|New York||3 years||3 years|
|North Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|North Dakota||2 years||2 years|
|Ohio||2 years||2 years|
|Oklahoma||2 years||2 years|
|Oregon||2 years||6 years|
|Pennsylvania||2 years||2 years|
|Rhode Island||3 years||10 years|
|South Carolina||3 years||3 years|
|South Dakota||3 years||3 years|
|Tennessee||1 year||3 years|
|Texas||2 years||2 years|
|Utah||4 years||3 years|
|Vermont||3 years||3 years|
|Virginia||2 years||5 years|
|Washington||3 years||3 years|
|Washington, D.C. A special jurisdiction rather than a state||3 years||3 years|
|West Virginia||2 years||2 years|
|Wisconsin||3 years||3 years|
|Wyoming||4 years||4 years|
Best to file as soon as possible, regardless of the state
No matter the time frame, it’s generally better to file a claim sooner rather than later. This is because it will be easier to gather evidence and relay information. Witnesses will likely remember the accident better if contacted right after the event rather than a few weeks after. The insurance company’s investigation process could take a good amount of time, too. Not just that, but the sooner you get the claims process started, the sooner you get a payment.
If you do not file a claim within the allotted time limit, your claim will be denied.
What is the claims process?
Information your insurance company
Following the car accident, be sure to gather as much information as possible. Take pictures of the damages and injuries, and figure out the total cost of repairs and medical expenses. Then, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. They will ask you for certain key information listed on the right.
Next, an insurance adjuster will investigate your claim. The adjuster will usually contact you between one and three days after you file a claim and will assess your personal injuries and the damage to your car. From there, the insurance company will issue a payment to cover repairs, medical expenses, or a new car altogether.
Reasons a claim would be denied
Insurers don’t approve every claim they process. In some cases, an insurance company may deny your claim, especially if you were the one at fault for the car crash. Following are a few other reasons why your insurance claim may be denied.
How to cause your claim to be denied
Obviously, you want your auto insurance claim approved, not denied. Here are some things you could do that would get your claim denied.
- File beyond the statute of limitations
- Provide misleading information when signing up for a policy
- Give fraudulent or dishonest information when filing your claim
- File after letting your policy lapse
- Put in a claim for an accident involving an excluded driver
- Submit a claim after an accident during illegal activity
Let’s look at each of these more closely.
Statute of limitations
If you did not file a claim within the state’s statute of limitations, then your claim will likely be denied.
If you were not truthful when signing the insurance contract, your claim could be denied. Misleading information includes lying about a family member who drives the vehicle or lying about your driving record.
Fraud or lying
If you lie or give fraudulent information to your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company, this could result in a denied claim.
A lapsed policy may occur if you get behind on insurance payments. Even if it’s just one missed payment, this could lead to a lapsed policy — and a denied claim.
An excluded driver is someone who is driving the insured car but is not on the insurance plan. For example, the youngest son in the family has a bad driving record. The insurance company excludes him from the plan but includes all the other family members. If the son is driving the car and gets in an accident, the claim could be denied because he is not covered by the insurance company.
If you were doing an illegal activity at the time of the accident, such as drunk driving, the insurance company could deny your claim. Speeding does not usually fall under this rule — though it will affect your claim if your speeding caused the accident.
How do I report an accident to my insurance company?
Your auto insurance company should provide you with contact information when you sign up. Otherwise, you can look up the phone number after an accident, or before you start driving the vehicle.
Will every claim I file affect my car insurance rates?
Filing a claim does not necessarily mean your insurance rates will go up. Generally speaking, your insurance rates will go up if you are the at-fault driver.
How long after an accident can you file a lawsuit?
The time limit you have to file a lawsuit varies depending on which state you’re in, but it’s usually better to file one sooner rather than later.
What do I do after a car accident?
If you’re involved in an auto accident, call the police, do not admit fault, and exchange information with the other drivers involved. Then, contact your insurance company.
- The amount of time you have to file a claim depends on which state you live in, but it’s best to file one as soon as possible.
- If you file a claim after the given time limit, your claim will be denied.
- Property damage claims have a different time limit than bodily injury claims.
- If you file an insurance claim, the insurance company could help cover medical and repair expenses from an accident.
Learn about accident forgiveness
While it is common for insurance rates to go up after a car accident where you were at fault, it is possible to avoid this. Many companies offer accident forgiveness, which basically guarantees that your insurance rate won’t increase if you get into an accident. Learn more about accident forgiveness and how to get it here.
View Article Sources
- Car Insurance Deadlines: How Long After an Accident Can You File a Claim?— Nolo
- How to file an auto insurance claim — Progressive
- Road traffic injuries — World Health Organization
- Top 8 Reasons Car Insurance Claims Are Denied — Chicago Legal Group
- Typical components of an auto insurance policy — Allstate
- Understanding the Claims Process — Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C., Attorneys at Law
- What is the difference between a “claim” and a “lawsuit”? — The Lynch Law Group
- What’s The Time Limit To File An Insurance Claim After A Car Accident? — The Miley Legal Group
- 37 Auto Insurance Discounts — The Ultimate Guide to Saving on Auto Insurance — SuperMoney
- Auto Insurance Broker vs. Do It Yourself— SuperMoney
- How to Bundle Home and Auto Insurance — SuperMoney
- What Happens If You Total a Leased Car? — SuperMoney
Camilla has a background in journalism and business communications. She specializes in writing complex information in understandable ways. She has written on a variety of topics including money, science, personal finance, politics, and more. Her work has been published in the HuffPost, KSL.com, Deseret News, and more.