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How Long Do You Have To Report An Accident

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Ouch…You’ve just gotten into a car accident. So, who needs to know and how long do you have to report an accident after a crash? Although your first priority is to seek medical attention, the clock is also ticking on when you need to notify insurance to file a claim or to report the accident to the police.

If you’re not sure whether you need to report an accident, knowing how much time you have is critical. Here’s a look at the deadlines that could apply.

In this article:


How Long Do You Have To Report An Accident With The Police?

If you were physically injured or had more than minor damage to your car, you’ll almost always need to file a police report, especially if you need to sue another driver for damages. If the accident is substantial, it’s best to call the police to the scene right after the crash occurred so that they can investigate on the spot with the best evidence available. The sooner you call the police, the more efficiently you’ll be able to establish fault and process your insurance claim or lawsuit.

Most states only require you to report an accident with the police where the damages or injury are above a certain amount. The time limit for filing a police report varies by state, for example:

  • Tennessee: A police report must be filed within 20 days where damages exceed $400.
  • New York: A police report must be filed within 10 days where damages exceed $1,000.
  • Florida: A police report must be filed within 10 days where damages exceed $500.
  • California: A police report must be filed within 10 days where damages exceed $1,000.

As you determine the requirements for filing a police report in your state, remember that many states have strict rules for hit-and-run accidents. The penalties can include such things as license suspension and, in states like California fines and up to six months imprisonment. So even if you end up not having to file a report, make sure you never leave an accident without providing your insurance information to other drivers involved.

How Long Do You Have To Report An Accident To Your Insurance?

The short answer is that you should file your claim as soon as possible. Most insurance companies have 24-hour emergency hotlines and mobile apps for just that purpose.

If you’re unsure whether your accident warrants a claim, know that most states require you to report an accident after a certain threshold of property damage has been met (in some states it can be as low as $500) or where there are any physical injuries. Keep in mind that the average property damage cost of a car accident is usually in the range of $3,000 to $5,000.

Even if you’re not at fault and are filing a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company, you might want to also notify your own insurance. After all, if the other driver thinks you’re at fault and you don’t notify your insurance company, then they’ll have a harder time gathering evidence and defending the claim on your behalf.

To best preserve your coverage, and also guard against any potential claims against you, most insurance companies require you to report an accident and cooperate with any investigation. This is true even if it’s a single-vehicle accident. Although they may not publicize this, your insurance company has a specific cut-off for filing an accident claim. If you want to know exactly what that is, it’s best to ask your insurance agent directly.

When Is It Too Late To File A Claim?

The answer to the question “How long do you have to report an accident?” can also be affected by your state’s statute of limitations period. This is the amount of time after an accident that you have to file a lawsuit in court. It’s important to note that the statute of limitations varies by state and can also vary based on the types of damages involved, including bodily injury and property losses.

Typically, most states have a statute of limitations period of one to ten years for car accidents. Having a longer filing period is helpful as some physical injuries or auto failures don’t appear until long after the fact. So, although most insurance companies say that an accident report needs to be filed 24 hours after the crash, accident victims can still seek to recover through the court system months or even years after an accident based on the statute of limitations period in their state.

Although you may have time to file, the important takeaway is this: the longer you delay in filing your claim, the more difficult it can be to prove it. Witnesses’ memories fade and evidence deteriorates over time, which can reduce your ultimate payout. If an insurance company or a jury has valid grounds to doubt your claim for lack of evidence, you could be out of luck.

Should You Ever Not Report An Accident After A Crash?

If the accident is so minor that it will only cause your premium rates to increase, you may not be required to report it and can simply cover the damages on your own. In this case, remember to check the language in your insurance policy as well as your state’s requirements for filing a police report to make sure you’re in the clear.

How Long Do You Have To Report An Accident In Your State?

Whether you plan on filing an insurance claim after a car accident, or you’re thinking of going to court, there are important factors to weigh, including your likelihood of success. Get the answers you need with a free estimate of your car accident case.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.


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