You could have as little as 30 days to file a car insurance claim, or you could have months or even two to three years. Your policy probably states that you should report an accident or possible claim right away, but reporting an accident is different than filing a claim. After “promptly” reporting, you’ll have some time to file the official claim. Check your policy or contact your insurer directly for exact deadlines.
If you intend to file a claim in court, you typically have two to three years after the accident to pursue damages in a lawsuit. Each state has its own statute of limitations for filing a claim in court, and deadlines can be different for personal injury and property damage claims. State laws range from one to six years, but two to three is most common.
Why is there a time limit on car insurance claims?
Time limits are in place to protect the insurance company’s ability to investigate a claim. Your insurer will collect a lot of information about the accident, including witness statements, police reports, photos of damage, medical and auto repair bills, and more. The insurance company may also send an adjuster to the scene of the accident or to inspect damaged property in person. As time goes on, evidence degrades and memories become foggy. Time limits make sure the accident can be thoroughly and accurately investigated.
There are reasons you may want to delay filing a claim, though. It may take weeks for the symptoms of certain injuries to show. You may also be getting treatments on a doctor’s schedule or want to seek a second medical opinion. Property damage is usually easier to see, but you may not find out about major problems with the alignment, suspension, or exhaust system until your car is in the shop weeks later. Since most insurers won’t allow you to file more than one claim per accident, it might be better to delay filing, so you don’t leave out something insurance would have covered.
While there are situations when it makes sense to wait, it’s almost always in your best interest to file a claim with your insurance company right away. The reality is the longer you wait, the more likely it is the insurance company will deny your claim. But you can still file a claim and even get it approved as long as your delay doesn’t prevent the insurer from investigating properly.
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