Whether you are driving to work from home, running errands, or enjoying a road trip with your family, there is never a good time to get involved in a car crash. Regardless of who is at fault, you need to quickly take care of a few things to protect your rights.
Of course, seeking medical attention should be your first priority should you or your passengers suffer serious injuries. Once you are okay, you need to report the accident to the police and your insurance company.
But some of the critical questions you may ask yourself include; how long do you have to report an accident? Is it necessary to report the accident? How long do you have to report an accident to insurance? How long do you have to file a lawsuit?
These are sensitive and time-related questions that you can’t afford to ignore. This post provides answers to these questions, including a quick summary of the statute of limitations for car accident claims and how they can impact your case.
Read on to find out everything you need to know.
Why Do I Have to Report a Car Accident?
Typically, you report a car accident to protect yourself from malicious claims that may be filed against you. If you don’t report it yourself, someone else could, and the repercussions could be dire.
For instance, say you accidentally bumped into someone’s parked car while exiting the parking and decided to drive off. There might not be anyone around at the time of the incident, but your action may have been caught on a nearby CCTV.
If you don’t leave your details or don’t bother to report the incident anywhere, the occurrence could be turned into a hit-and-run, forcing the police to hunt you down.
Furthermore, it is a legal requirement in almost every state to stop after an accident, no matter how minor it is. Driving off after being involved in an accident could have more severe consequences than if you stop, leave your details, and report the incident to the police.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that since you are fully liable for any damage caused to others if it is your fault, it is critical to contact your insurance company after a car accident.
Many auto insurance policies have a clause requiring you to report and cooperate with them to investigate any third-party claims filed against you to preserve your coverage.
Therefore, you will want to report the accident to your insurance company, especially if there is a possibility that the other party may assert a car accident claim against you.
You may also want to contact your insurer, even if it is not your fault, to help you with filing a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
How Long Do You Have to Report an Accident to the Police?
One of the first things you need to do after an accident is to inform the police. If you have suffered injuries and can’t do it right away, be sure to report it as soon as possible – typically within 24 hours of the incident.
Remember that reporting the accident is different from filing a car accident claim with your insurance company.
When you report the accident to the police, it means that there is now a formal record of the incident taking place. If the accident was a minor fender bender with no extensive damage and you don’t need to file a claim, you may do without reporting the incident.
However, if the accident caused significant property damage or injuries, you must report it to the police without any delay.
The car accident police report limit varies by state. Generally, your insurer will ask for a formal police report when you file an insurance claim. Reporting the incident as soon as possible makes the claims process relatively smooth for you.
How Long Do You Have to Report an Accident to Your Insurance Company?
The short answer is that you should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible, even at the scene if possible. If you cannot report the accident while at the scene, be sure to do it within 24 hours.
Thankfully, most insurance providers have 24-hour accident claim hotlines and mobile apps to help you file a report within the shortest time possible.
If it is a single-vehicle collision and you aren’t sure whether to report it or not, wait until you go through your policy document to find out if it is necessary.
Many insurance companies require policyholders to report cases of accidents and make claims within a specified window of time after the incident has occurred.
However, these time limits aren’t made public and are mostly specific to each policy. Ask your insurance agent if you are unsure about the time limit that applies to your policy.
Reporting a Car Accident vs. Filing an Insurance Claim
As mentioned earlier, reporting an accident to your insurance company isn’t the same as filing a claim.
Insurance providers usually encourage policyholders to report accidents they are involved in, but you can only file a claim if you have the right coverages to help pay for your medical costs and car repairs, such as personal injury protection, collision coverage, and comprehensive coverage.
Even so, you still need to provide a wide range of documents to file a claim successfully. These documents include photos of the accident scene depicting the damage suffered, a police report, contact information of the other parties involved in the accident, witness statements, and a claim form.
When You Might Not Need to Report a Car Accident
Minor fender benders happen quite frequently. If another motorist is at fault for a minor fender bender, accepts responsibility, and provides you with their contact information, you might not need to report the incident to your insurance company, but you still need to contact the other motorist’s insurance company to file a claim for the damage to your vehicle.
However, if you are at fault or if the incident resulted in bodily injuries, you still need to report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible to narrate your side of the story.
Remember that reporting an accident to your insurance company may lead to consequences such as increasing your insurance rate.
So, if another party is responsible for the fender bender and agrees to pay for the damages out of pocket, there might not be a need to contact your insurance company.
Also, ensure you fully understand the accident reporting requirements mandated by your loan or car lease agreement, if applicable. You should also read the terms and conditions of your insurance policy carefully to avoid getting into trouble.
Car Accident Lawsuits and the Statute of Limitations
Lawsuits are an exception when dealing with motor vehicle accidents, but they are sometimes necessary if the insurance company denies your claim or fails to cover your damages adequately.
Having said that, you need to know that every state has strict time limits – known as the statute of limitations – for filing car accident lawsuits.
The time usually starts running from the day you are involved in the car accident. Therefore, if you wait for eight months after the auto accident to file for an insurance claim but then decide to sue the at-fault party, you will already be eight months into the statute of limitations.
Different states also have different time limits for different types of claims. In Illinois, for instance, you have two years from the date of the accident to file for a personal injury claim but up to five years for “injury” to personal property.
Feel free to read more about the statute of limitations and how they apply to car accident lawsuits here.
Have You Been Involved in a Car Accident? Speak With a Car Accident Lawyer Now!
Whether you have been involved in a minor fender bender or a severe car accident, you need to speak with an attorney to ensure your rights are fully protected.
An attorney will assess the circumstances surrounding your accident and answer additional questions you may have about reporting the accident. Contact us to connect with a car accident attorney in your local area.
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