How Long After an Accident Can You File a Claim?

If you get into an accident, it's important to file an insurance claim quickly. Here's how long you might have to file a claim.

With the initial shock of the crash now behind you, it’s crucial to deal with the incident’s aftermath, including filing a claim with your insurance company. 

So, how long after an accident can you file a claim? When is it too late?

From serious to a minor fender bender, a car accident can have a significant effect on more than just your car insurance premium. 

When should you file a claim after a car accident?

Each state has different laws and statutes of limitations that govern when claims and lawsuits can be filed.

If you’ve gotten into an accident, you have until the end of the statute of limitations to file a claim in your state. Even if you’ve switched insurance companies or canceled your policy, you can file a claim as long as you had insurance coverage during the time of the accident.

All 50 states have these claims broken out into two categories: personal injury and property damage. Property damage also includes damage to your vehicle from a collision or because of natural disaster, theft, or vandalism (comprehensive coverage).

Take a peek below to see what the statute of limitations is in your state. If your home state isn’t listed, review Enjuris’ free resource

StatePersonal Injury Claim LimitProperty Damage Claim Limit
Arizona2 years2 years
California2 years3 years
Illinois2 years5 years
New Jersey6 years6 years
Oregon2 years6 years
Pennsylvania2 years2 years
Virginia2 years5 years
Washington state3 years3 years

If state law notes that you have two years to file a lawsuit, this also means that you have two years to file a claim. After this period, however, you will no longer have legal recourse to recover any damages incurred from the crash.

Should I wait to file a claim after a car accident?

Filing a claim with your insurance company right away does have its benefits. If you file immediately after getting into an accident, you’re giving yourself time to file a lawsuit if negotiations are dragged out. 

Additionally, if you file an insurance claim right away, you have a greater likelihood of getting paid out by your insurance provider immediately. This is because the insurance company will have a better understanding of what the damage from the accident looks like, as opposed to further damage caused by you or others later down the road.

How should I file an insurance claim after a car accident?

As always, best practices after a car accident include: 

  • Getting the other driver’s insurance details and contact information and writing down the vehicle’s license plate number
  • Assessing the damage to your vehicle and taking photos of both the scene and all vehicles involved
  • Filing a police report and writing down the report number
  • Visiting the doctor if you are injured. Make sure to document everything and keep track of any paperwork, as you’ll need this information for a personal injury claim.

How does the claims process work at Metromile?

At Metromile, we try to make the claims process as painless as possible.

We have licensed insurance specialists available 24/7, which means you can file a claim whenever you’re ready. 

If you’d like, you can even file a claim from the scene of the accident on the Metromile app or website, assuming you’re safe and don’t need medical attention. 

We offer three ways for you to file a claim:

  • From the Metromile app
  • On the Metromile website, after you log into your account
  • Over the phone by calling 888-595-5485

Unfortunately, filing a claim after a car accident isn’t always so easy. Some auto insurance companies have a lengthy claims process. If you’ve struggled with this before and are looking for a more straightforward approach, check out Metromile. 

Because the Metromile Pulse device is plugged into your car at the time, it can serve as a “virtual witness” of the accident, which can speed up the claims process. For example, you might be able to confirm details instead of providing them over and over again.

The bottom line

Each state has a different statute of limitations for both property damage to your vehicle and personal injury claims, but you should file a claim as soon as you can. 

Just because there is a long time frame for the statute of limitations in your state does not mean that you should wait the full period. You may want to give yourself time in case negotiations, or the claims process takes longer than expected. You can also get paid sooner if you file a claim sooner. 

If you don’t often drive and want a smoother claims experience, Metromile and pay-per-mile auto insurance may be right for you. 

You can see if Metromile is right for you with Ride Along™. Download the Metromile app for free to get started. After you get an auto insurance quote, you’ll drive for about two weeks with your current coverage (Ride Along is a trial and not an insurance policy) — no need to change your routine! Then, we’ll show you how much you could save with an accurate rate based on your actual observed driving.