Have you been involved in an accident? If YES, here is how long you have to report a car accident to your insurance company based on the state it occurred.

Many people often wonder what window of opportunity they have to report to their insurance company after they have had an accident. They wonder how long they can stay after an accident before reporting it so they can still be eligible for insurance payout.

But this answer lies in the modus operandi of the company that you are insured with. For most insurance companies, if you’re involved in an accident, they require you to get in touch with them as soon as possible. Yet others require that you must inform them within 24 hours of the incident.

The best way to handle this issue so as not to make a mistake is to check the wordings of your insurance policy to see if your insurer has specified how long you have to report an accident. But in general, it is said that the sooner you tell your insurer, the better.

There may be instances where people don’t want to report an accident or incident that occurred with their car at all. For example, if you were to scrape your car door against a gate while backing out of a parking space, you may not feel too comfortable to report it if the repair is estimated to cost the same or less than your insurance deductible.

Also, your insurer may decide to raise your rates after such a report, especially if you have prior claims, although premium hikes are unpredictable. But even low-speed collisions with seemingly minor damage can sometimes cost more than $1,000 to fix, according to tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2008.

Considering all these, some drivers may decide to keep back on reporting a minor incident, but this is generally not advisable. If you don’t stop after an accident and report it, you could receive a significant fine and up to six months’ imprisonment depending on the state you reside in.

Also, if you don’t tell your insurer about the accident, or if you tell them too late, then they may cancel your policy and refuse to insure you in the future. You should now know that no matter how minor, not reporting an accident is an offence that could seriously jeopardize your chances of getting insurance in the future with any company.

How Long Do You Have to Report A Car Accident To Your Insurance Company?

The short answer is that you should report the accident as soon as you can. Yes, even at the scene if possible. This is because most insurers have 24-hour accident claim hotlines and mobile apps for claims. If it’s a single-vehicle accident and you’re not even sure whether to call, you’ll probably want to read through your policy and make an informed decision once you get home.

Many insurance companies require policyholders to make claims within a specified window of time after the accident has occurred, but these limits are not made public and are specific to each policy. If you are unsure, ask your insurance agent.

States also have different time limits for different types of claims. In Illinois, for example, you have two years in which to file a personal injury claim but five years for “injury” to personal property (in this case, damage to your vehicle).

Your auto insurance policy might state that you should initiate the claims process at the time of the incident, or within 24 hours of when the damage to your vehicle was done. While strongly recommended, this time frame is not a requirement, and it does not preclude you or another driver from filing a claim or lawsuit months or even years later, as long as the claim is filed within the statute of limitations of the state where the accident occurred.

This is useful and necessary, since some injuries and mechanical damage is not apparent until days or weeks after an accident occurs. However, be aware that the longer you wait to file a claim, the harder it might be for you to defend it.

Insurance companies may be highly suspicious of significantly delayed claims, and will investigate whether the damage you’re claiming actually resulted from the covered accident rather than, deceptively, from a later incident. If they have legitimate reasons to doubt your claim, they may deny coverage.

Typically, auto insurance claims will fall under one of two statues of limitation: one that limits the time limit for bodily injury claims, and one that limits the time limit for other damage claims, including property damage (damage done to another vehicle), collision damage (damage done to your own vehicle), and comprehensive damage (damage done to your own vehicle from a non-collision event, like theft or vandalism).

If another driver was at fault for your accident, and it occurred in a no-fault state, you’ll need to file your initial claim under your own collision or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy first. However, you still can file a claim against the other driver if you suffer from ongoing or permanent physical injuries, and the cost of treatment exceeds your policy’s coverage.

Here are the time limits for reporting a car accident in each state. Where reporting is required “immediately,” it’s typically expected that you’ll notify the police via phone from the scene of the accident.

  • Alabama: 30 days
  • Alaska: 10 days
  • Arizona: Immediately
  • Arkansas: 30 days to file a motor vehicle accident report, 90 days to provide proof of insurance.
  • California: 10 days
  • Colorado: Immediately
  • Connecticut: Immediately
  • Delaware: Immediately
  • Florida: 10 days
  • Georgia: Immediately
  • Hawaii: Immediately
  • Idaho: Immediately
  • Illinois: 10 days
  • Indiana: Immediately
  • Iowa: Immediately
  • Kansas: Immediately
  • Kentucky: 10 days
  • Louisiana: Immediately
  • Maine: Immediately
  • Maryland: 15 days
  • Massachusetts: Five days
  • Michigan: Immediately
  • Minnesota: 10 days
  • Mississippi: Immediately
  • Missouri: 30 days
  • Montana: Immediately
  • Nebraska: 10 days
  • Nevada: Immediately
  • New Hampshire: 15 days
  • New Jersey: Immediately
  • New Mexico: Immediately
  • New York: Five days
  • North Carolina: Immediately
  • North Dakota: Immediately
  • Ohio: Six months
  • Oklahoma: Immediately
  • Oregon: Three days
  • Pennsylvania: Five days
  • Rhode Island: 21 days
  • South Carolina: 15 days
  • South Dakota: Immediately
  • Tennessee: 20 days
  • Texas: 10 days
  • Utah: Immediately
  • Vermont: Five days
  • Virginia: Immediately
  • Washington: Four days
  • West Virginia: Five days
  • Wisconsin: Immediately
  • Wyoming: 10 days

While you may have anywhere from few hours to several weeks to report an accident, failing to do so immediately after the collision will likely delay your claim and diminish your chances of recovering your losses. Insurance companies and courts rely on police reports as a vital piece of evidence, and unless an officer was able to assess the scene of the incident, insurers might not be able to clearly determine who was at fault.

Information You Need to Have to Report an Accident to your Insurer

There are a few things you need when you report your accident to your insurance company. Some of them may include but not limited to;

  • Where the accident happened (e.g., street names, intersection, turn lane, etc.)
  • The type of accident (e.g., rear-end, head-on, etc.)
  • A brief overview of what happened (it helps to write this down right after the accident so you do not forget anything)
  • The other driver’s name, contact information, insurance information
  • Any eyewitnesses’ contact information (if you were unable to get this information on the scene, it is likely on the police report)

Conclusion 

You should know that even if your insurance policy wording specifies that you have a few days to report an accident, it is in your best interest to report the incident as soon as it occurs. To avoid all risks, do it within 24 hours. Failing to report an accident is a criminal offence that may cost you your insurance, and you know that driving uninsured is not unlawful. For total peace of mind, it’s vital that you make sure you’re covered by adequate car insurance at all times.

Ejike Cynthia