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A car accident is one of the most stressful ordeals you can experience. Not only is an accident a harrowing event, but injuries and car damage can add to your emotional and financial burden.
If you have car insurance, you can take comfort in the knowledge you’ll be reimbursed for financial damages. But it’s important to remember that many insurers put a time limit on how soon you must file a claim after an accident.
Here’s what you need to know about filing a claim after an accident and why your timing is essential.
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How long after an accident can you file a claim?
It’s best to be proactive and file your insurance claim as soon as possible after a car accident. While many insurance providers have a time frame to file a claim, there’s no set industry standard.
Timelines for filing claims can vary depending on your state, insurer and your particular insurance policy. For example, in New York, you must file a claim within 30 days of the accident, unless you have written proof of a justified reason for not meeting the deadline.
Your policy terms may use vague language to file your claim “promptly.” That’s because insurance carriers have their own deadlines to comply with when investigating claims. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes for insurers to investigate which party is at fault, track down witnesses and decide on your claim.
How to file a claim
Take the following steps to file an insurance claim after a car accident:
- Contact your insurance agent immediately. It’s best to notify your agent about your accident as soon as possible while the details are still fresh in your mind. You can even call your agent from the accident scene to let them know what happened and find out if your car insurance policy covers you for the specific loss.
- Start your claim. Many auto insurance carriers now have mobile apps that allow you to file a claim from your phone. You can log on to the app from the accident scene to start your claim, upload photos of the accident and damage to your vehicle, and even schedule an appraisal. Whether you use an app or not, start your claim immediately to help prevent a delay in processing and approving your claim.
- Provide supporting documents. As your insurer investigates your claim, it will likely require additional information, including a proof of claim form, the contact and insurance information of other drivers in the accident, and a police report, if available.
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What’s the difference between car insurance claim deadlines and lawsuit deadlines?
Generally, insurance carriers can impose their own insurance claim deadlines unless they’re subject to state deadlines for claims. For example, in New York, your insurer is required to acknowledge your claim within 15 business days.
But if you want to pursue legal action, understand that you must follow your state’s statute of limitations — a term for the deadline to file a lawsuit. You must adhere to your state’s specific legal time frame for filing a lawsuit after an auto accident in order to move forward.
In Florida, for example, the general statute of limitations to file a personal injury or property damage lawsuit is four years from the date of the accident, with some exceptions. In wrongful death lawsuits against the at-fault driver, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the person’s death.
If you’re considering legal action, always seek professional legal counsel from a qualified attorney, as laws change regularly, and you’ll need specific advice regarding your unique case.
Why it’s important to file a car insurance claim quickly
Filing a claim quickly after a car accident is essential because the longer you wait, the more challenging it becomes to obtain evidence to support your claim. Witnesses’ memories fade, and evidence goes missing or is harder to obtain. Besides, the sooner you begin the claims process, the sooner you may receive compensation for damages.
When you file your claim immediately after your accident, your insurer may be less likely to deny it because it’ll be able to investigate quickly. As a general rule, an insurance carrier has roughly 30 days to investigate your claim, but the time frame could vary depending on your state.
While no one likes to think about it, driving can be dangerous. That’s why it’s important to carry adequate auto insurance coverage. Carrying at least the minimum types and amounts of coverage can help financially protect you if you’re at fault in a car accident.
It’s wise to shop around and compare quotes from multiple auto insurance providers. While getting the lowest price is ideal, it’s crucial to balance the price with the right coverage to ensure you’re getting the best value.
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