Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that exis...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 23, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • All states have a statute of limitations on personal injury cases
  • The insurance company should be notified of an accident right away to start the claims process
  • You will be expected to respond to your insurance company’s request for information promptly

Filing an auto insurance claim can seem overwhelming, so it’s important to know what to expect from the process.

It may surprise you to learn that you have a limited window of time for filing a claim after your car is damaged.

The details regarding filing deadlines should be outlined in your auto policy, but there are some other considerations that you should be aware of.

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There is a Statute of Limitations for Filing Lawsuits

In most states, auto accident lawsuits are bulked in with personal injury suits. The statute of limitations can range from one to six years, depending on the state you live in. For instance, Oklahoma and Ohio have laws stating that any action for bodily injuries should be filed within two years of the date of injury.

This deadline can be extended in cases where a fatality was involved. If someone died as the result of an accident, then the countdown would begin from the date of death rather than the date of the accident.

If you try to bring a suit after the state of limitations has passed, then the court will most likely dismiss the case.

Even though you may be confident that your case will be resolved through the claims process, you should still be aware of the lawsuit timeframe.

If your insurance company is not able to collect enough money to offset your injuries and damages, then you may need to bring suit on your own.

You want the claims process to finish in a timely manner so that you’ll be within that legal timeframe for your lawsuit.

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When You Should File a Claim

Knowing when to file a claim can help simplify things for you out on the road. You’ll want to move forward with a claim if your car has significant damage or there are any injuries. Even if you’re not sure who is at fault, you can still put a claim in with your company and let them work through the investigative process.

If there are no injuries and the physical damage is slight, then you may want to hold off on filing a claim. Instead, pay for the damages out of your own pocket if you were at fault because doing so can help you keep premiums down moving forward.

If the other person is at fault, then you should still ask to have a claim filed with their liability insurance so that you can receive payment in a timely manner.

Call Your Insurance Company First

Any delays in notifying your company can ultimately cause you problems. Delays only serve to hinder the process because witnesses may forget details about the accident. You should contact the insurance company first so that they’ll be aware of the situation.

You should be prepared to offer them a range of details, including:

  • Which vehicle was involved in the accident and who was driving
  • Location, time, and details of the accident
  • Basic description of the accident and how serious the damage is
  • Contact and insurance information on the other driver
  • Contact information on any witnesses who may have been at the scene

Once the insurance company is notified, it becomes a waiting game while you see how the accident will be handled and what steps they will take.

Talk to your agent to find out what the time limit is for an insurance company to make a decision on your claim. Most companies have internal policies governing how long they can take to provide you with an answer.

Keep in mind that you may also have time limits for providing the company with certain information, including any signed proof of loss. If you fail to provide the company with information in a timely manner, then they may have the legal right to refuse your claim.

When the Offer is Too Low

In some cases, the offer that the insurance company provides you with may seem too low. It’s important for you to know that you don’t have to accept any estimate or appraisal of losses from the insurer.

You have the right to get a second opinion on losses and dispute the findings of your own insurance company. Before you accept any check that says “final payment,” be sure that you are ready to accept that amount as the full settlement.

One way to avoid problems with low offers is by carefully researching any company before signing up for a policy. You can shop around for the best rates, and then take the time to look at the customer service reviews of the companies you’re interested in.

Try to sign with a company that has a reputation for processing claims timely and fairly.

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Visit with the Insurance Commissioner’s Website

You can also take a quick trip to the website for your state’s insurance commissioner. These sites will provide you with more information regarding your state’s laws and your own rights. Having this information on hand can be invaluable when you’re negotiating with the company and trying to get answers.

Going through a claims process can help you decide if you love your insurance company or would rather find a new provider.

If you decide that you want to try out a new company, then take the time to shop around for the right plan.

By using a comparison tool, you can easily get quotes to see who is in line with your budget. It’s an easy way to save money, and you just might save some frustration the next time you need to file a claim.

Find affordable auto insurance is easy when you use our comparison tool! Enter your zip code below to get started now!