How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident?

car accident report

Car accidents are naturally stressful for most people. Even something as simple as scratching your car against a shopping cart in the supermarket parking lot can be unnerving. If you are involved in an accident that involves other people and vehicles, you will definitely need to get in touch with your insurance company.

How long do you have to report a car accident?

That answer depends on the state in which you reside, and your insurance company’s policy, which are usually not made public. Ideally, it would be best to call your insurance company as soon as possible – even from the scene of the accident. However, before you do that, make sure your passengers and other individuals are safe. Call for help immediately if anyone has serious or severe injuries that require medical attention.

If you were not able to call from the scene, report the accident to your insurance company once you get home. Before calling, you may want to review your policy as well as the details of the accident so you have an idea of what you’re covered for and entitled to.

Compile your notes about the accident to provide thorough information to the representative. Your insurance company will want as much information as possible, including the date, time of day the accident occurred, road conditions that may have played a factor, the police report reference number, location of the accident, make and model of other vehicles involved, your account of what happened, etc. If you were able to take pictures, videos, and get witness contact information at the scene, pass those details along to your insurance company as well.

After you call your own insurance company, you may also want to file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Whether or not the accident was your fault, avoid admitting to guilt when speaking to the other party’s insurance company.

State Limitations

Keep in mind that when it comes to filing a lawsuit (or being the subject of someone else’s lawsuit), there are strict time limitations in each state, known as the civil statute of limitations. If a person waits six months after an accident to file an insurance claim but then decides a lawsuit is the best course of action, they are already six months into the statute of limitations.

Individuals involved in minor accidents may not see any point in contacting their insurance company because the cost of repairing minor damage for the other party may be less than their deductible. However, there’s always the chance that injuries can show up a day, a few weeks, or even months after the collision occurred. Reporting these minor car accidents allows you to cover your bases in case the other party decides to escalate their claim.

From a law enforcement point of view, each state has a specific deadline within which the accident must be reported. For example, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, and New Jersey require accidents to be reported immediately over the phone. California, Florida, Illinois, and Texas allow for within 10 days. Ohio has the most liberal timeframe, allowing people up to six months to report an accident. For more information on your state-specific rules, contact your local DMV.