How Long Do You Have To Report an Accident?

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.

Editor

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With over six million car accidents occurring in a year, the likelihood of being involved in a crash is high. If this has happened to you, then you may be wondering - how long do you have to report an accident?

You may be required to make a report to your insurance, to local police, or both. Here’s what you need to know about reporting an accident and the deadlines that apply.

Are You Required To Report a Car Accident?

It can be tempting to not report a car accident to anyone. There’s always the possibility that an accident report could cause your insurance premiums to rise, and you may be hoping that the out of pocket cost to fix your vehicle will be low.

In many cases, though, you are obligated to report the car accident whether you want to or not. As a general rule, you should expect to report your car accident if any of the following hashow long do you have to report an accident occurred:

  • Someone has been injured
  • Someone has died
  • The accident has caused significant property damage

Drivers may be required to report a car accident to their insurance or to the police. Let’s look at when you have to make one of these reports and how long you have to get it done.

How Long Do You Have To Report an Accident to Your Insurance Company?

The requirement to report an accident to your car insurance company is laid out in your policy. Even after a minor car accident, you likely need to notify your insurance soon after the accident occurs.

Most insurance policies include a requirement that you report all accidents and cooperate in the insurance company’s investigation. The timeframe for reporting may be as soon as is reasonable, or it could be as short as 24 hours. Failing to report promptly could lead to cancellation of your policy or denial of your claim.

The state where your accident occurred may also impact how long you have to notify your insurance carrier and start a claim. New York requires you to initiate a claim within 30 days of the accident. Michigan is less strict, but still requires claims to be filed within one year. Your claim will likely be denied if you fail to start the process before legal deadlines pass.

How Long Do You Have To Report a Car Accident to the Police?

In addition to reporting the accident to your insurance, you may be required to file a report with the police. Each state sets its own laws for when a report is required. All states require a report if the accident caused a death or an injury.

Many states also require a report if there is property damage valued over a threshold amount. The property damage amount that triggers a report requirement varies, but is often $500 or $1,000. Some states set their threshold very low. For example, Tennessee requires a report if property damage exceeds only $50. Colorado requires a report if there is any property damage.

If you are required to report a car accident to the police, the timeline for doing so can be short. Many states require a report immediately after an accident. Only a handful of states allow more than 10 days to file a required report.

You can report a car accident to police at the scene by calling 9-1-1. In the case of minor accidents where no one has been injured, it’s possible that police will not come to the scene. In this situation, you should document the following yourself:

  • The accident location
  • The time and date of the crash
  • Damage to vehicles or personal property
  • Weather and any other visibility factors at the time of the accident
  • Contact and insurance details from all drivers
  • Contact details for any witnesses

A car accident lawyer can help you gather these details after the fact. They can also help identify other useful details for proving fault in a car accident not your fault. Fill out the form on this page to get help today.

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How Long Do You Have To File a Car Accident Lawsuit?

If you’re considering a lawsuit after a car accident, being aware of time limits is even more important. Each state has a statute of limitations - a law that sets the deadline for filing a lawsuit. The statute of limitation differs for different types of claims.

Car accidents often lead to personal injury lawsuits, which commonly have a two year statute of limitations. Some states allow more time to pass before you have to file, while others require quicker action.

How a Lawyer Can Help After a Car Accident

Sometimes legal action is necessary to protect yourself. If your insurance company refuses to compensate you fairly, or another driver claims you were at fault for the accident, a lawyer can help assert your rights.

It is often worthwhile to get an attorney after a car accident. Studies have found that personal injury cases settle for up to 3.5x more when a lawyer is involved. Lawyers know how to identify and present evidence for maximum effect. They also understand insurance and legal processes, which helps ensure your case doesn’t suffer from mistakes. Fill out the form on this page for a free evaluation of your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Insurance policies and state laws may require you to report a car accident in 24 hours or less. Failing to meet this requirement could lead to delays or denial of insurance claims. It could also lead to fines or criminal penalties, depending on the laws in your state.

  • The time allowed to report a car accident to police or your insurance depends on state laws and your insurance policy.

    Any car accident that causes an injury or death must be reported to police swiftly, with many states requiring an immediate report. Significant property damage also typically requires a report. Alabama provides the most time to file a report - allowing up to 30 days.

    Reports to insurance are often required as soon as doing so is reasonable. Most insurance companies offer 24/7 hotlines or dedicated apps to make reporting as easy as possible.

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