How Much Time Do You Have to File an Insurance Claim after a Car Accident?

Hint: It depends on the state.
A man calls the insurance company after someone backed into the side door of his car in the parking lot. How much time to file a car claim.

You’ve recently been involved in a car accident, and now you must file a car insurance claim. It’s understandable that while you’re trying to recover from the shock, anger, and stress, you might not recall how quickly you need to phone your insurance company. That’s why we’ve put together this handy state-by-state guide for when you need answers fast.

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

The short answer is it depends on your state. All states have their own dictated time frames for filing various insurance claims—the fancy official term for this is “statute of limitations.” Basically, each state has its own rules you need to follow to get everything reported and in motion before it’s too late.

Your car insurance company may have its recommendations for when to file a claim after an accident (it’s usually ASAP). Still, you have to do so by your state’s mandatory time limit. Some states have varying time frames for different types of claims, so that’s another important detail to study regarding your location.

How long after a car accident can you claim injury?

You're likely to have many questions if you've been involved in a crash. One of them is probably "How long after a car accident can I claim injury?" Statutes of limitation typically fall within a 1-year to 10-year range for reporting different car insurance claims. Of course, just because you have the option to wait longer to file a claim doesn’t mean you should. Claims made years after an incident may flag an insurance company to potentially conduct a more extensive investigation and be less likely to believe your story. To reduce the risk of being denied reimbursement, filing your claim ASAP is always a safer bet.

Here’s a look at a breakdown of state-by-state statutes of limitation for filing car insurance claims. Note the states with different deadlines for bodily injury and property damage claims.

State Statute of Limitations on Car Insurance Claims
Alabama 2 years
Alaska 2 years
Arizona 2 years
Arkansas 3 years
California 2 years
Colorado 3 years
Connecticut 2 years
Delaware 2 years
Florida 4 years
Georgia 2 years personal injury, 4 years property damage
Hawaii 2 years
Idaho 2 years
Illinois 2 years personal injury, 5 years property damage
Indiana 2 years
Iowa 2 years personal injury, 5 years property damage
Kansas 1 year personal injury, 2 years property damage
Kentucky 1 year personal injury, 2 years property damage
Louisiana 1 year
Maine 6 years
Maryland 3 years
Massachusetts 3 years
Michigan 3 years
Minnesota 6 years
Mississippi 3 years
Missouri 5 years
Montana 3 years personal injury, 2 years property damage
Nebraska 4 years
Nevada 1 year
New Hampshire 3 years
New Jersey 2 years personal injury, 6 years property damage
New Mexico 3 years personal injury, 4 years property damage
New York 3 years
North Carolina 3 years
North Dakota 2 years
Ohio 2 years
Oklahoma 2 years
Oregon 2 years personal injury, 6 years property damage
Pennsylvania 2 years
Rhode Island 3 years personal injury, 10 years property damage
South Carolina 3 years
South Dakota 3 years
Tennessee 1 year personal injury, 3 years property damage
Texas 2 years
Utah 4 years personal injury, 3 years property damage
Vermont 3 years
Virginia 2 years personal injury, 5 years property damage
Washington 3 years
West Virginia 2 years
Wisconsin 3 years
Wyoming 4 years
Washington DC 3 years

Once your time limit is locked down, it’s essential to schedule a date to get in touch with your insurance company. Allow yourself plenty of time to gather everything you need, such as the other driver’s information and a recap of the incident, before calling them. Also, be aware that the claims process may vary depending on whether you live in a “fault” or “no-fault” state, so it’s important to check out your local government’s website (or pay your local branch a visit in person) for more details. An independent insurance agent can set you up with a sample letter for a car accident insurance claim.


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What Is the Time Limit to Report a Car Accident?

So now you understand your state’s time frame for filing an insurance claim, but what about reporting the accident itself? While a good rule of thumb is to report any and all accidents ASAP if your car so much as taps another, it’s important to know your state’s specific deadlines. 

Your state may require reporting a car accident to the DMV or the police directly from the scene or immediately following the accident, or it may have different guidelines depending on the extent of the damage.

Can you file a car accident claim without a police report?

In certain states, minor accidents that will not result in any car insurance claims may not need to be reported. It’s important to note, however, that most states require you to report accidents that cause injury, death, or at least $1,000 in property damage. Contacting the police right after an accident occurs is typically the smartest move since certain injuries aren’t obvious while on the scene. Having a police report will also help your case when filing a report with your DMV, and if you choose to file a car insurance claim down the road.

Here’s a look at the state-by-state breakdown of time limits for reporting a car accident. Note that many states have different stipulations depending on the extent of the damage.

State How Long You Have to Report Car Accident
Alabama 30 days
Alaska 10 days
Arizona Immediately/At the scene
Arkansas 30 days to report an accident, 90 days to provide proof of insurance
California 10 days
Colorado Immediately/At the scene
Connecticut Immediately/At the scene
Delaware Immediately/At the scene
Florida 10 days
Georgia Immediately/At the scene
Hawaii Immediately/At the scene
Idaho Immediately/At the scene
Illinois 10 days
Indiana Immediately/At the scene
Iowa Immediately/At the scene
Kansas Immediately/At the scene
Kentucky 10 days
Louisiana Immediately/At the scene
Maine Immediately/At the scene
Maryland 15 days
Massachusetts 5 days
Michigan Immediately/At the scene
Minnesota 10 days
Mississippi Immediately/At the scene
Missouri 30 days
Montana Immediately/At the scene
Nebraska 10 days
Nevada Immediately/At the scene
New Hampshire 15 days
New Jersey Immediately/At the scene
New Mexico Immediately/At the scene
New York 5 days
North Carolina Immediately/At the scene
North Dakota Immediately/At the scene
Ohio 6 months
Oklahoma Immediately/At the scene
Oregon 3 days
Pennsylvania 5 days
Rhode Island 21 days
South Carolina 15 days
South Dakota Immediately/At the scene
Tennessee 20 days
Texas 10 days
Utah Immediately/At the scene
Vermont 5 days
Virginia Immediately/At the scene
Washington 4 days
West Virginia 5 days
Wisconsin Immediately/At the scene
Wyoming 10 days
Washington DC 3 years

Whatever your state’s time limit for reporting an accident, it’s always a good practice to do so while the details are still fresh in your mind. Car accidents are stressful enough in the first place, but taking action early is one way to potentially limit any hassles in the aftermath. Plus, the earlier you report the accident, the faster the official investigation can begin, and the sooner you can potentially receive reimbursement from your car insurance policy.

What Is the Car Accident Claims Process?

The insurance claim process for car accidents is fairly simple. After reporting the accident to the police, first, you'll get in touch with your independent insurance agent. Your agent can actually file the car accident claim for you, or you can do it yourself by contacting your car insurance company. You're likely to need details about the other driver and their insurance policy, as well as what actually happened during the accident. You might be asked to provide photos of the damage to your vehicle, and then your insurance company will typically schedule repairs at one of their preferred auto body shops.

Your independent insurance agent can also help you file personal injury claims from a car accident. To get reimbursed, you'll need to go through your personal injury protection coverage if the accident was your fault.

How to Claim Lost Wages from a Car Accident

If you have to miss work due to injury from a car accident, you can file a claim for lost wages to recoup that income you would've otherwise gotten. You usually have three options to do this:

  1. File through your own insurance policy. Your independent insurance agent can help you with this, and tell you if your policy includes this coverage.
  2. Ask to be compensated by the other driver's car insurance if they were at fault.
  3. If the other driver is non-compliant, you can file a lawsuit against them.

If you're unsure of which of these steps is right for you to take to file a lost wages claim, your independent insurance agent can help advise you. You can also ask your insurance company directly for advice.

What happens when a car accident claim exceeds insurance limits?

If a car accident claim exhausts the coverage limits of the insurance policy of the other at-fault driver, you could actually be entitled to a judgment that goes beyond those limits. It's possible that you could be entitled to the remainder of the costs through putting a lien on their property or through garnishing the at-fault driver's wages. 

How to Settle a Car Accident Claim without a Lawyer

You can attempt to recoup your losses without a car accident claim lawyer by making a demand to the at-fault driver's insurance company. These details must be included in a demand letter:

  • Full details of the accident and your case
  • The amount of property damage or injury costs you've incurred
  • What's necessary for your recovery and the estimated timeframe
  • If you've had to miss work and how much
  • Your formal request for the appropriate compensation amount

Your independent insurance agent can also probably advise you on how to settle a car accident claim without using a lawyer. There are risks involved in this process, however. But still, for some folks, settling out of court after a car accident is worth it and less of a hassle, overall.

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