How Long Do You Have To Report A Car Accident To Your Insurance Company?
Being involved in a car accident—even a minor one—can be a scary experience.
After an accident, your key concern should be getting the medical attention that you and your passengers may need.
Once you’re medically safe, you may be wondering how long you have to report a car accident to your insurance company.
In this article, we provide you with everything you need to know about filing your car insurance claims and reporting car accidents at the right time.
What Is the Difference between Filing Car Insurance Claims and Reporting Car Accidents?
There is a common misunderstanding that filing a car accident claim and reporting an accident to your auto insurance company are the same thing.
Both are important steps when it comes to your car insurance, but each of these works very differently.
One of these steps needs to take place before the other can happen. The two steps in the correct order are:
1. Notify your insurance provider of the car accident
Reporting an accident simply means that you are letting your insurance company know that an accident has taken place.
This is a very important step.
If you don’t initially report an accident and want to submit a claim, your insurance company has no way of knowing whether the claim is related to the damage caused when the accident happened.
They will also not know whether the claim is related to something else that took place later on.
In addition, if a claim is filed against you by the other party involved in the accident and you didn’t let your insurance provider know about the incident, many insurance companies will deny you your insurance benefits.
This means that your insurance company may not pay out for all damages related to the accident.
In most cases, you will want to make arrangements for getting a police report, and notify your insurance company of the accident to get the claims process started.
2. File a claim with your insurance company
Once you have received your police report and notified your auto insurance company of your car accident, you can then file an insurance claim.
When you file a car insurance claim, you are making a formal request to your insurance company for compensation.
It’s important to note that when requesting compensation for damages, whether property damage, a bodily injury claim, or other medical expenses, your car insurance rates may go up. This is especially true if you were the driver at fault.
It’s best to speak to your insurance agent to find out by how much your car insurance rates will increase before you decide whether you can afford to pay for property damage or damage to your vehicle.
When deciding on whether to claim, it’s also important to remember that damages from a minor accident are something you may be able to pay for out of pocket.
Do You Really Have to Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company?
There are some cases where you may feel that you don’t need to report a car accident at all. Usually these are minor accidents or small damages that you can afford to pay for yourself.
A good way to consider whether to report small car accidents is by assessing your deductible and deciding whether the cost of repair is going to be higher or lower than the deductible.
Key Point: What Is a Deductible?
In a car insurance policy, a deductible is the amount that you will pay out-of-pocket before your insurance provider will pay any expenses.
For more insight into the ins and outs of deductibles in car insurance, visit our article ‘What Is a Deductible in Car Insurance and How Does It Work’.
If the cost to do any repairs is less than the deductible, then it would be better to rather not file a report with your insurance provider or make a claim.
It’s important to keep in mind that if you have damaged another person’s property in any way—be it their car or something like a fence—you will definitely want to contact your insurer to file a claim.
This is because the accident may be your fault, in which case you will be liable for the repair of damages.
There are other instances —such as if you live in an at-fault state and an auto accident was not your fault—when you will be wanting to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
When Can You Skip Filing a Car Insurance Claim?
Insurance claims can often trigger a rate increase; this is something that you will want to avoid if you are able to.
Here are five situations when you should not file an insurance claim:
1. Single car accidents
When only your car is involved in the accident and no one else’s property was damaged, and you can afford to pay for the repairs out of pocket, it’s best not to file a claim.
2. When the claim amount is the same or less than the deductible
If the repairs only cost slightly more than the deductible, keep in mind that it may not be worth filing the claim as it will be added to your claim history, and this will probably negatively impact your premiums in the future.
3. When your insurance rate increase will cost more than your deductible
Once your insurer has assessed your insurance claim damage, ask them if they will increase your premium and by how much.
The cost of a rate increase may not justify submitting a small claim.
4. Minor accidents when both parties agree to settle privately
If you were involved in a minor accident with another vehicle and the damage to the other person’s car is minimal, you may decide to pay for the damages privately.
In this case, it’s best to not file for a car insurance claim with your insurer as this may impact your insurance premiums.
5. You have an older vehicle
If you have an old car and are not worried about its cosmetic appeal, it may be better to hold off on filing an insurance claim.
In this case, it will save you money on insurance premium hikes and repair costs if you are able to put up with minor cosmetic damage to your car.
What Will Happen If You Delay Reporting a Car Accident with Your Insurance Company?
If you wait too long to file a car insurance claim with your insurance company, it could cause problems later on.
It’s crucial for you to know that this will be the case for more serious car accidents where the cost of damages exceeds your deductible, or where two cars were involved.
This will also apply if you were the cause of any property damage.
Many insurance companies have 24-hour mobile apps and hotlines where you can report an accident quickly and easily.
Also remember that although you are not legally obligated to notify your auto insurance company after a car accident, most states will still require you to report a more serious accident to the police.
This is especially true if anyone is injured or if there is a certain amount of property damage.
How Long Do You Have to Report the Car Accident to Your Car Insurance Company?
Drivers usually have a 30-day window in which to report car accidents to their insurer.
Most policies will not indicate a specific timeframe, but will rather state that a driver needs to report the incident ‘promptly’.
If you are unsure about the timeframe for reporting car accidents, be sure to reach out to your insurance agent for guidance.
You will also be able to find the answer to this question in the wording of your insurance policy.
Remember that if anyone is injured or there is property damage involved, you will need to report the incident to the police as soon as possible, or even immediately, depending on the state that you live in.
Should You Make a Claim through Your Insurance or the Other Driver’s?
If you are the cause of the car accident, you should file a claim with your own insurer.
Alternatively, you should file a claim with the other driver’s car insurance company if you’re not at fault for the accident. If you, however, live in a no-fault state, each driver claims from their own insurer.
However, there are drawbacks to filing a claim with the other driver’s insurer. It’s highly likely that the other driver’s insurer will thoroughly investigate your claim.
They will seek to confirm whether the other driver is in fact at fault. It’s typical for the other driver to deny fault, in which case you may need to go to court—a process that could drag on for a while.
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