How Long After an Accident Can You File an Accident Claim?

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The time limit for filing an accident claim in the United States varies depending on the state where the accident occurred and the type of claim being filed. These time limits are known as the statute of limitations and are set by state law.

In general, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in most states ranges from one to six years from the date of the accident or injury. Some states may have shorter or longer time limits, with claims against government entities typically having some of the shortest.

If you’re just starting the process, make sure to contact a qualified attorney who is familiar with your state laws today.

With their help, you’ll be able to make your way through all the legal red tape and paperwork you’ll need to file to ensure you properly document your accident, protect your rights, and secure compensation for any damages you’re owed. 

Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law are here to help you if you’re trying to file an injury claim in California. Our California car accident lawyers can walk you through any next steps and start by providing a confidential, no-obligation case review to discuss all your options.

All you have to do is call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.

Can You Report an Accident After 48 Hours?

Yes, it is possible to report an accident after 48 hours — and according to California law, you have up to 10 days —  but it is generally advisable to report the accident to the relevant authorities as soon as possible after the accident occurs.

In some cases, such as hit-and-run accidents, it may be required by law to report the accident immediately or within a certain time frame.

Insurance companies usually require that accidents be reported within a reasonable time frame, which can vary depending on the insurance policy. Some policies may require that accidents be reported within 24 hours, while others may allow for a longer time period.

Moreover, by reporting the accident as soon as possible, you can make sure to collect all relevant evidence right away, as well as statements from any witnesses while the event is still fresh in their minds. 

What if You Don’t Report the Accident Right Away?

Waiting too long to report an accident can make it more difficult to gather evidence, and it may be more challenging to establish liability or fault for the accident. On top of that, choosing not to report the accident can lead to consequences down the line. These may include: 

  1. You may be in violation of the law: In some jurisdictions, failing to report an accident within a certain period of time can be considered a violation of the law. For example, in some states in the US, including California, drivers are required by law to report an accident to the police within a certain time frame, any time it involves an injury.
  1. You may lose your right to seek compensation: If you don’t report an accident to your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company within a reasonable time frame, you may lose your right to seek compensation for damages resulting from the accident.
  1. Your claim may be denied: Insurance companies may deny your claim if you don’t report an accident in a timely manner. Insurance policies typically require that accidents be reported promptly, and failure to do so may be grounds for the insurance company to deny your claim or to question the strength and timeliness of any evidence presented.
  1. Evidence may be lost: If you don’t report an accident right away, important evidence may be lost or destroyed. For example, skid marks on the road may fade away, or witnesses may forget important details about the accident.

How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident in California? 

California law requires that you report any accident involving significant property damage or any injury or death within ten days of the initial collision. Failure to report does not directly affect your right to file a claim, but it can result in a fine on top of the indirect consequences outlined above.

In California, the statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims, including those meant to seek damages from liable parties for car accidents, is generally two years from the date of the accident.

This means that a victim has two years (from the date of the accident) to file a claim seeking compensation for their injuries and any other damages suffered.

It’s important to note that there are exceptions to this general two-year rule. If the accident involved a government entity, such as a police car, the time limit to file a claim may be shorter, and a victim may be required to file a government claim within six months of the accident.

The time limit may also be extended if the victim was a minor, the accident wasn’t discovered until later, or the most-likely at-fault party is no longer located in the state.

It’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident to determine the applicable statute of limitations and ensure that the claim is filed within the necessary time frame. 

What if You’re Filing the Claim As a Minor? 

In many states, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims brought by minors is tolled or put on hold until the minor reaches the age of 18. This is the case in California.

This means that the two-year time limit for filing a personal injury claim does not begin to run until the minor turns 18. So if a minor is injured in an accident at the age of 10, they would have until they are 20 years old to file a personal injury claim.

While you could obtain representation as a minor and have someone pursue a claim on your behalf, the resulting settlement is likely to be paid directly to your parent or guardian. As such, it may make the most legal and financial sense to delay the claim until the victim’s 18th birthday.

That said, it’s still important to report the accident as soon as possible to preserve evidence and ensure that witness statements are fresh. Even if the statute of limitations is tolled for minors, waiting too long to report an accident makes it harder to gather evidence and establish liability.

What If the Other Party Reports the Accident Before I Do? 

If the other party reports the accident before you do, it’s still important for you to report the accident to your insurance company or the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.

Reporting the accident promptly can help to ensure that your rights are protected and that your insurance company has all of the information they need to process your claim.

Even if the other party has already reported the accident, you should still contact your insurance company to provide your version of the events and any additional information that may be relevant to your claim.

If the other party’s insurance company has already contacted you about the accident, it’s important to be cautious about what you say to them.

You should never admit fault or make any statements that could be used against you later on. Instead, you should refer the other party’s insurance company to your own insurance company or to your personal injury attorney, who can handle communications on your behalf.

What if the Other Party’s Insurance Company Contacts Me and I Don’t Reply? 

If the other party’s insurance company contacts you about an accident and you do not reply, it could potentially harm your ability to pursue a claim for damages.

This is because the insurance company may use your lack of response as evidence that you were not interested in pursuing a claim or that your injuries or damages were not as serious as you claimed.

Instead of ignoring communications, it is generally a better legal strategy to defer them to a designated representative, like an attorney.

What if I Don’t Have Insurance at the Time of the Accident? 

If you are involved in an accident, and you do not have insurance, you may still be able to file a claim for damages against the at-fault party.

However, the process for doing so can be more complicated, and you may face challenges in obtaining compensation for your injuries and property damage.

In some cases, the at-fault party’s insurance company may be willing to work with you to settle your claim directly, even if you do not have insurance. Of course, this is not always the case, and you may need to take legal action to pursue compensation.

It’s also important to note that driving without insurance is illegal in most states, including California. If you are involved in an accident and do not have insurance, you may be subject to fines and penalties, and your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked.

Additionally, if you are found to be at fault for the accident, you may be held personally liable for any damages or injuries that result.

How Long Does an Insurance Company Have to Settle a Claim in California?

In California, there is no specific time limit for an insurance company to settle a claim. However, California law does require that insurance companies act in good faith and make a reasonable effort to promptly, fairly, and equitably settle claims.

California Insurance Code Section 790.03(h) provides that insurance companies have a duty to “adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation and processing of claims.”

If an insurance company violates this duty, the policyholder may be able to pursue legal action for bad faith.

If you are having difficulty getting your insurance company to settle your claim, it may be helpful to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. 

So start your search with Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law. Our Fresno auto accident attorneys here to help you navigate the complicated next steps that can come with reporting an accident — or negotiating with an insurance company.

So don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. To schedule a confidential, no-obligation consultation today, simply call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online.