How Long After a Car Accident Can You File an Insurance Claim?

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Car accident insurance claim time limits rely on the verbiage in your auto insurance policy and your state’s particular laws. In most cases, insurance companies expect you to file a car accident claim promptly or within a reasonable time, typically within hours or days of a car crash.

It is always in an accident victim’s best interest to file a car insurance claim as quickly as possible. Failure to file on time can result in an insurance claim being denied. Bear in mind that there is a time limit for filing a car insurance claim and a separate time limit for filing a lawsuit in the state where the accident occurred.

At David Bryant Law, we understand that the variety of claim deadlines can be confusing for accident victims, especially as they recover from crash injuries. Keep reading to better understand the time limits in your state and how a car accident lawyer can help you file an auto insurance claim.

Car Accident Insurance Claim Deadlines Vary by Policy

There is no singular answer for how much time you have to file an insurance claim after a car accident.

Most car insurance companies do not include a specific deadline for when to file a claim. Many insurance providers will specify that you file “within a reasonable timeframe,” though the exact time limit depends on the language used in your car insurance policy.

For instance, there is a chance your insurance provider has requested you initiate the claims process “right away” or “within 24 hours of damage to your vehicle.” In these situations, contacting your insurance company immediately after filing a car accident report is best.

It’s also important to check if your insurance policy has separate time limits for different types of claims.

There are two types of insurance claims involved in car accident cases:

  • Bodily injury claims (also referred to as personal injury claims) cover medical bills and lost wages.
  • Property damage claims cover damage to another driver’s vehicle and collision damage to your vehicle.

Once you review the details of your insurance policy, you should also look at the state laws.

State’s Deadlines May Override Policy Time Limits

Though most accident victims rely on their insurance policy to decide when to file a car insurance claim, certain states enforce local auto accident laws that dictate the claim deadline instead of the insurance company.

For instance, the 12 states that follow a no-fault auto insurance system (including Kentucky, a choice no-fault state) have also passed state laws to implement insurance claim deadlines.

In New York, a no-fault state, accident victims must file an insurance claim within 30 days of an accident unless there is a reasonable excuse for extension, such as hospitalization.

Under Kentucky’s car accident laws, accident victims must file a report with an insurer within 10 days of an accident—even for Kentucky drivers who have opted out of the no-fault system.

As a disclaimer, these state laws are not to be confused with the amount of time accident victims have to report a motor vehicle accident to the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Most states require accident victims to file a police report at the scene of the accident if the crash resulted in an injury or more than $2,000 of property damage.

For instance, drivers in Ohio have 6 months to file a police report, whereas Kentucky drivers only have 10 days. In states like Arizona and Colorado, drivers must report an accident immediately. Failure to immediately report an accident in Arizona or Colorado can result in a class two misdemeanor traffic offense.

In most cases, it’s best to file an accident report and insurance claim as soon as possible.

Why You Should Submit Your Claim Quickly

An insurance claims adjuster inspecting a damaged vehicle with vehicle's owner.

Even with the stress of an auto accident, submitting your insurance claim quickly is essential. You should optimally file within 24 hours but should aim to not wait longer than a few weeks.

Auto insurance companies are notoriously suspicious of significantly delayed claims (as in several months after the crash) and will investigate to determine the validity of your claim.

When you delay filing an insurance claim, you create doubt that your medical expenses or property damage costs were truly the results of the accident. The insurance company may try to claim that your damages were from a later incident and deny your claim.

Other reasons to submit your car insurance accident claim as soon as possible include:

  • Timeliness of details. The earlier you file a claim, the clearer the details of the accident and how your injuries occurred. These details are essential to prove your claim.
  • Accessibility of evidence. The insurance company may require evidence, like surveillance footage or medical receipts, that’s easier to gather now rather than days or weeks later.
  • Credibility of witnesses. If there were any witnesses to your crash, it’s best to file a claim when their memories are fresh to limit the risk of conflicting information.
  • Speed of a settlement. The auto accident settlement process can take up to 14 months, so the sooner you file, the sooner you settle.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to file an injury claim online or via phone call. To begin, you’ll need the contact information of the other driver, the driver’s insurance information, your own insurance policy information, and any relevant details of the accident, such as the location.

In a no-fault state like Kentucky, you’ll file your initial insurance claim under your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or collision coverage.

In a fault state like Colorado or Georgia, your insurance company can contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to file a third-party claim.

What Happens if I Delay Making a Claim?

Insurance claims should be filed in a timely manner, but there are instances when a victim must delay filing a claim. The time frame listed on your insurance policy is not the end-all, be-all for when you can file. This is because the insurance company understands that some injuries or property damage are not apparent until days or weeks after the crash.

With this being said, the reasoning for car accident insurance claim time limits is to protect the insurance company’s ability to investigate your case so you can receive proper compensation. While the insurance company is obligated to cover your accident damages, you are also responsible for claiming and confirming these damages by filing a timely insurance claim.

A delay in itself will not immediately cause the insurance company to deny your claim. In fact, it’s considered a bad faith denial if the insurance provider denies your claim purely on a timing technicality. A delayed claim is typically denied only if the late filing impacts the insurance company’s ability to properly investigate your claim, such as when there is a loss of evidence due to a delay.

Car Accident Claim Deadlines Versus Lawsuit Deadlines

The deadline to file an insurance claim is separate from the deadline to file a lawsuit. Both are equally as important. It’s important to learn your state’s statute to file a lawsuit, known as the statute of limitations, for both your personal injury claim and your property damage claim.

Each state sets a statute of limitations for the maximum amount of time an accident victim can wait before filing a lawsuit.

In Kentucky, victims have two years from the exact date of the accident or the date of the last PIP insurance claim payment to file, whichever occurs later.

A settlement does not need to be decided by the statute of limitations, but a lawsuit must be underway. Although certain exceptions to the statute of limitations exist, such as not knowing the identity of the at-fault driver, most lawsuits will be rejected if they are filed after the deadline.

What Happens After Filing an Insurance Claim?

A car accident victim and attorney inspecting and filing insurance paperwork.

Personal injury claims average 14 months to settle, and a lot can happen in that time. When you first file your claim, an insurance adjuster typically has no more than 30 days to review your claim, though the exact amount of time varies by state. Serious accidents or collisions with severe injuries often take much longer to investigate, as there’s more evidence to review.

That 30-day review period resets every time the insurance adjuster requests additional information, like alternative documents or witness statements. The longer the insurance company takes to review or request relevant information, the longer it takes for you to receive a payout.

At some point, you may wonder if the insurance company is treating you fairly or if they’re purposely extending the claims process so you agree to a smaller auto accident settlement. If you’re experiencing frequent delays or unusual pushback, contact a Kentucky auto injury lawyer right away.

A lawyer can speak with the insurance adjuster on your behalf to advocate for your right to timely compensation. If the insurance company does not uphold its duty to provide a reasonably timed settlement—or an adequate settlement amount—your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf.

How an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Help with Your Claim

After a car accident, the sheer amount of medical bills and insurance documents can become overwhelming. Once you factor in the unique time limits for mandatory accident reports, auto insurance claims, and statute of limitations, it’s no wonder why so many accident victims delay the claims process.

That’s why knowledgeable car accident attorneys are here to help.

At David Bryant Law, we strive to protect accident victims from having to relive the trauma of their car crashes due to unfair insurance providers. We stay by your side throughout the entire claims process to ensure the insurance company won’t unnecessarily prolong your accident case.

Our car accident attorneys help get you the compensation you deserve and will help file a lawsuit if you’re unable to recoup your damages from the insurance company. If you’re unsure how to begin the claims process, reach out to the trusted team at David Bryant Law today for a free consultation.

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David G. Bryant is certified to practice in all state courts in Kentucky, and federal courts in the Eastern and Western districts of Kentucky, Southern District of New York, Southern District of West Virginia, Northern District of Ohio, Middle District of Tennessee, and Western District of Pennsylvania. He is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.