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Even minor car accidents can be extremely stressful. There are many aspects that cause headaches for everyone involved. The insurance claim is definitely one of them, but the sooner you report your accident, the sooner you can be finished with the entire process.
But keep in mind that it may not be up to you to decide when to report your accident. There may be state regulations that dictate how much time you have to begin your claims process. Here is your guide to when you should report a car accident to your insurance.
Every State Has Its Own Set Time Limit
Time limits for reporting car accidents for insurance claims are set at the state level, rather than the federal level. This means that every state will have its own time limits. Generally, this period will vary between one year and 10 years.
Kansas and Nevada for example only allow one year, regardless of the type of claim. On the other hand, Rhode Island allows a full decade to report property damage. Most states fall in the two- to three-year range.
The Type of Claim May Influence Your Time Limit
Within each state’s regulations, there are typically two categories of claims, each with their own time limits: injury claims and property damage claims. Sometimes, the second category also includes collision claims and comprehensive claims. Many states set the same time limit for both categories of claims, though some allow an extra year or two for property damage claims.
Recommendations from Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company may have its own preferences regarding when you begin your claim. Some companies will request that you report the accident at the time it occurs, others may want you to call your agent within 24 hours. It’s best to consult your policy or call your agent for the specifics. These preferences are helpful for starting the process as quickly as possible, but they are not requirements. You can still report your accident months later, as long as you are within the time limit set by your state.
Reporting to the DMV or Police
In some states, you do not need to report minor accidents in which you will not be filing an insurance claim. These are accidents where there are no injuries or property damage. However, more serious accidents, those involving injuries, damage, or both, will need to be reported to the DMV and/or police. This report will likely need to be provided to your insurance company as well, so it’s important to know when to file it.
Every state has its own requirements for reporting an accident. Some make it mandatory to report the accident immediately. Others may give you anywhere between five and 30 days. Ohio, for example, gives you as much as six months to report it.
You should check your state’s specific guidelines, but remember that the earlier, the better. Your insurance company will rely on the police report to tell them who was at fault, which can influence the success of your claim.
Ultimately, It’s Up to You
As long as you stay within your state’s regulations, you can report your accident whenever you feel is appropriate. Reporting it as early as possible may be beneficial, since your memory will be fresher and clearer.
On the other hand, some vehicle damage, and even injuries, may not become apparent until weeks later, so you may want to wait. However, be aware that it may be more difficult to file claims later.
Your insurance company will more thoroughly investigate a claim that is reported months after the incident, resulting in a lengthy process. If the insurer has any doubt that your claim is legitimate, they will deny the claim, so be mindful of that.