How Long After an Accident Can You File a Claim?

When a traffic accident happens, don’t wait to file a claim

A person gets out of their car.

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Imagine you’ve just gotten into a wreck. Your car is only slightly damaged, but the accident has thrown a wrench in your already hectic schedule. Should you call your insurance agent immediately, or can you wait a few days or weeks to file a claim?

Insurance company guidelines and state laws can dictate how long after an accident you can file a claim. Although it’s a hassle, insurers require you to follow procedures and submit supporting documentation when filing a claim. Knowing how long you have to file a claim after an accident can ensure you handle your claim the right way.

Key Takeaways

  • Some insurance policies require you to submit a claim within a certain period of time following an accident.
  • Factors such as the extent of damage to your vehicle can impact the claims timeline.
  • State laws may limit the amount of time you have to accept or reject a settlement or sue for damages.

How Long You Have To File a Claim After an Accident

The required timeline for filing a car insurance claim can vary by insurer or state. Some states’ insurance departments recommend filing a claim “as soon as possible,” which doesn’t precisely define how much time you’re allowed. If you live in an “as soon as possible” state, it’s best to file your claim the day of the accident, if not right after the accident happens.

Some states limit the amount of time you can sue an individual or entity following an accident. For instance, Texas law requires you file a bodily injury or property damage suit within two years of the incident.

State law may also limit the amount of time you have to accept an insurance settlement. For example, Utah law requires individuals accept or reject a bodily injury claim within four years of the accident and a property damage claim within three years.


If you don’t accept a settlement within a legally mandated period, you could lose the right to obtain the settlement.

How Long You Have To Make a Claim at Four Major Insurers

Many insurers don’t have a deadline for how long you have to file a claim after an accident or other covered incident. However, some insurers recommend you start the claim as soon as possible.

Insurer Time To File a Claim
Progressive No time limit as long as the policy is in effect when the accident happens
Allstate No deadline, but you need to file as soon as possible
State Farm No deadline, but per your insurance policy, you have to file the claim as soon as is reasonably possible
USAA Contractually, you have to file the claim at your first convenience.

How To File an Auto Insurance Claim

Insurers offer various ways to file a car insurance claim. You’ll typically have the option of filing a claim at least one of three ways: over the phone, online, or via a mobile app. Regardless of how you file a claim, follow procedures carefully to ensure you receive the best settlement.


Ask your insurance agent for a brochure that outlines the steps you must take when filing a claim, and store it in your vehicle.

In some states, you must report an accident to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles if anyone sustained injuries or if a collision caused property damages above a specified dollar amount.

Know Your Rights When Filing a Claim

Some states do not require insurance companies to settle auto insurance claims within a specified period. But most state insurance codes require insurers to address policyholders’ questions and settlements in a “timely” manner.

However, some states do regulate the claims process timeline. For example, if you aren’t at fault for a car accident, Utah requires the at-fault person’s insurer to respond to car insurance claims within 15 days of you filing the claim. Utah providers must also accept or deny a claim within 30 days, but they can request an extension if they need more time to investigate an accident.

What if the Other Party Is at Fault?

If another driver is at fault for an accident, you must file a claim with their insurance company. However, if you live in a state that has a comparative negligence law, your insurance company might also need to get involved with the claim.

Typically, if an accident involves injuries, those who’ve sustained bodily injuries must file first. The insurer might not settle a medical-payments claim until you or your passengers have completed all treatment.

The other driver’s insurer will investigate your bodily injury and property damage claims and, if deemed valid, offer a settlement. It’s important to consider the settlement amount carefully, because once you cash the settlement check or sign a release for damages agreement, you cannot file another claim for that accident. While quickly settling a property damage claim might be in your best interest, do not accept a bodily injury settlement until you complete medical treatments.

Factors That Can Impact How Long It Takes To Resolve a Claim

Several factors can impact your state or insurer’s insurance claim timeline.

Extent of Damage and Cost of Repair

Typically, an insurer will send an adjuster, who will determine the amount of damage and cost of repairs. In some cases, the repair shop might find additional damages, which can lead to another adjuster inspection and appraisal. In this case, the adjuster might modify the settlement amount or may require you to seek estimates from other repair shops.

Adjuster’s Availability

At times, events can cause insurers to become overwhelmed with claims. For instance, following a hailstorm, providers might receive large volumes of auto insurance claims. In such cases, you might have to wait a few weeks to meet with an adjuster.

Settlement Negotiations

If you accept the settlement the insurance company offers you, the process should go quickly. But if you don’t, it might take longer to receive compensation.

The Bottom Line

When you get into an automobile accident, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. Follow the claims filing process precisely to ensure you receive the best settlement. If your insurance company doesn’t respond to your claim, file a complaint with your state’s department of insurance.

When filing a claim, talk to your insurance agent about how it might impact your insurance rate. If your premium increases, you can take steps to reduce it, such as raising your deductible or dropping coverages you no longer need. You might also qualify for a discount if you complete a defensive driving course.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How soon can you file a claim after getting insurance?

An insurance policy has an effective date, which is the day on which it begins to protect your car. You can file a claim on or after the effective date, as long as your coverage isn’t lapsed.

How long after an accident can you file a health insurance claim for injuries?

Some private insurers may set deadlines on filing claims after receiving medical services. To avoid a costly mistake, ask your health insurance company about claims deadlines.

If you have Medicare, you typically must file a claim within one calendar year of receiving a medical service.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Texas Constitution and Statutes. “Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Title 2. Trial, Judgment, and Appeal. Subtitle B. Trial Matters. Chapter 16. Limitations. Subchapter A. Limitations of Personal Actions.”

  2. Utah Insurance Department. “Filing an Auto Claim With the Other Party’s Insurance Company.”

  3. New York State Department of Insurance Services. “Shopping for Auto Insurance.”

  4. Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. “What To Expect When You File an Insurance Claim.”

  5. California Department of Insurance. "So You've Had an Accident, What's Next?"

  6. Miller Friel PLLC. "Why It Takes So Long For Insurance Carriers To Respond To A Claim—And What You Can Do About It."

  7. “How Do I File a Claim?

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