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If you’ve recently been involved in an accident that resulted in injury or significant property damage, you may be wondering how long after an accident you can file a claim with an insurance company. If you’re Googling “How long to report accident to insurance?” you’ll want to get a little more specific with your search terms.
For example, you’ll need to know more about your state’s laws and about the policy under which you’re filing a car crash claim. Your state may require you to file a claim with your insurer within a number of days. If not, your policy may dictate that you file a claim within a certain timeframe.
But just meeting the claim deadline isn’t enough. You’ll want to make sure that the claim you file puts you in the best position to get compensated. Consider taking the following steps to ensure that your claim is properly completed, supported, and filed on time.
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Step 1: Gather Evidence At The Scene
You’ll have a better chance of obtaining all the compensation you’re owed if you can back up your car crash claim with solid evidence collected at the scene of the accident. Evidence which is closer in time (and location) to an accident is the most reliable and it can be lost once a car wreck is cleared from the road.
If possible, you’ll want to obtain the following kinds of evidence to share with the insurance claims adjuster assigned to your case and your attorney, if you choose to seek representation:
- Photos and videos of the accident scene
- The names and contact information of any witnesses to the crash
- The name, contact information, and insurance information of other drivers involved in the accident
- Documentation of any observable injuries that were apparent at the scene
Step 2: File A Police Report
You’ll also want to file a police report. Ideally, a law enforcement officer will start this process at the accident scene. But if there isn’t a police officer at the scene, you can file an accident report with a local law enforcement agency after the fact.
Act quickly, as some states either require motorists to file police reports immediately or within a few days after an accident occurs. For example, while California state law gives motorists 10 days to file an online accident report if there is more than $1,000 in property damage, injury, or death caused by a crash, written notification of an injurious or deadly accident must be submitted immediately to the California Highway Patrol or a local police department if no law enforcement officer was present at the scene.
Step 3: Consider Connecting With An Attorney
Filing a car crash claim is often a notoriously complex and consequential process. By working with a lawyer, you can avoid assuming all the stress of the insurance claims process and can instead focus on healing from the trauma you just endured. A lawyer can help to streamline the insurance claims process by:
- Reviewing your coverage to ensure proper valuation of your claim
- Negotiating with insurance claims adjusters
- Investigating the circumstances of your accident
- Gathering evidence to support your claim
- Completing necessary paperwork
- Filing paperwork properly and on time
- Explaining whether any settlement offers extended by insurers are fairly valued or not
- Appealing any unfavorable results of the claims process
Also, a local lawyer will understand the ins and outs of your state’s laws, which will better ensure that all the paperwork you’ll need to file as part of this process is drafted and submitted on time.
Step 4: File Necessary Paperwork On Time
Once you file required paperwork with your insurance company, it should open an investigation into your accident, request evidence related to your claim, and ultimately send you a check for the amount of compensation you’re owed.
Each insurance company has different forms that must be filed as part of the car crash claims process. Most claims forms can be filed online, directly from your private insurance account. If you have an attorney assisting you in the process, they will ask you questions about the accident to make sure that your paperwork addresses all of the relevant details. Don’t oversell or undersell your experience. Answer all questions truthfully and to the best of your ability without exaggerating or omitting information.
Once your claims paperwork is ready, your attorney can help you file it. Filing insurance claims paperwork is a time-sensitive process. The terms of your insurance policy may dictate that you need to file a claim within two weeks, 30 days, or 60 days of your accident. When timing your paperwork, also keep in mind that your state might require you to submit your claim within a certain timeframe. For example, car accident insurance claims must be filed within 30 days in New York.
Step 5: Communicate Carefully With Your Insurance Claims Adjuster
If you have an attorney, they should communicate with your insurer on your behalf so that you don’t have to. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses and experienced lawyers know how to speak with claims adjusters in ways that won’t give them any excuses to devalue or reject your car crash claim.
Your attorney can also review any releases, waivers, estimates, appraisals, and settlement offers sent over by your insurance company to ensure that they don’t feature any inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise problematic information. If you work through the insurance claims process on your own, you’ll likely be second-guessing every scrap of paper sent your way. A lawyer can clarify all these communications until your claim is properly valued and paid out.
Ready To Start Preparing Your Car Crash Claim?
There are many steps involved in submitting an auto accident claim to an insurance company. To ensure that you don’t miss any steps and that you receive as much compensation as you’re owed, consider getting a free legal review of your case.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.