How long after a car accident can you file a claim?

There usually isn't a hard deadline for car insurance claims, but your insurer will expect that you communicate with them in a timely fashion.

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It’s hard for insurers to set hard deadlines for claims because some damage settlements can take years. That means most insurers won’t set a claims deadline but will expect full cooperation, which includes notifying them of potential claims as soon as possible after an accident.

The major exception is with injury claims, which are handled through the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

How soon after an accident should I file a claim?

Generally speaking, filing a claim as soon as possible after an accident helps your insurer pay all the bills and accident expenses more quickly. Claims take time to process, so the sooner you file, the sooner you’re likely to see a reimbursement or payment from your provider.

Time limits for different types of claims

When you make an insurance claim related to a car accident, you’ll be making a claim for vehicle damage, property damage or theft. The time limits for making these claims are based on the type of claim.

Injury claims

Injury claims are handled by the ACC and you have to lodge your claim within 12 months after the date of the accident.

Property claims

Property claims are a little different. Insurers don’t typically have a hard deadline for filing a claim, but they will request that you tell them about any potential claim as soon as possible after an accident so that they’ll have time to investigate.

If you cause damage to someone else’s property, it’s important for you to report accidents early, so that your insurer can start to investigate right away on your behalf.

Is it ever worth it to wait before filing?

As long as you notify your insurer in a timely fashion and don’t blow past your ACC claim deadline, there are some cases where it may be worth waiting a while before submitting your claim. Here are some pros and cons of doing so:

Pros

  • Get a more comprehensive claim. Most providers won’t allow you to file more than one claim for one accident, and if they do, the process can be much more complex.
  • Get a second opinion from doctors. Waiting to file can buy you time to consult with more than one doctor to better assess your medical situation. This can save you trouble in the long run, both in terms of your health and how much your medical care costs you.
  • Make the most of your available cover. It’s possible that if you rush to file your claim, you’ll forget or miss an item that insurance would have covered if you had the chance to look through your claim again.

Cons

  • Longer wait before reimbursement or payment. Depending on your circumstances, you might need your claim paid out sooner rather than later. When you wait to file, that just delays the claims process.
  • Possible late bill payments. If you wait too long to file and it delays the payment of important charges or bills, you might get reported for a past-due payment to a credit reporting agency. If this happens, it could have a negative impact on your credit score.

How long will it take to have my claim processed?

According to the Fair Insurance Code, your insurer has 10 business days from the day they receive your claim to respond with the outcome or to let you know if they need more time to collect information or conduct further investigation.

If they do need more time, they must tell you what else they need from you, give you an estimated time frame for completion and inform you of their progress at least every 20 business days.

Bottom line

If you’re injured or your property is damaged in a car accident, it can take weeks or even months to assess the true cost of fixing what’s wrong.

Waiting before filing your claim or lawsuit with your insurer might help you get the cover you’ll ultimately need. But if you wait too long, you could completely miss out on filing your claim or settlement, leaving you with a financial burden.

To find out how property insurance law can affect your car insurance claim, it can help to speak to your insurance agent or an insurance professional.

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