How Long Do You Have to Report an Accident?

According to statistics, there are 6 million car accidents in the United States every year. From those accidents, 3 million people will suffer from injuries. Around 2 million people will experience some form of permanent injury. Every day, more than 90 people will die in a car accident. Unfortunately, this means that everyone needs to know what to do in the aftermath of an accident.

Many people wonder how much time they have to report a car accident after it happens. The truth is, the answer to this question is a bit two-fold because there are two parties you need to report to. You need to tell the police and you need to tell your insurance company.

Most states have laws requiring that an accident must be reported to the police immediately. This is especially true if there is extensive property damage or injuries involved in an accident. Leaving the scene without contacting police can not only affect your ability to file a claim with your insurance; it can also lead to criminal charges like a hit-and-run. Talk to the police first before talking with the insurance company.

The standard steps to take after a car accident are mostly common sense:

  1. Stay calm – keeping calm can ensure that you’re thinking straight and can communicate clearly with others involved. It can also prevent a confrontation from arising.
  2. Move off to the side of the road and call 911.
  3. Assist people who are injured – however, if the injuries seem serious, wait for emergency personnel to arrive to assist. Do not move people who may have a serious head injury unless there is more danger in letting them stay.
  4. Talk to the police. Make sure you get the officer’s name, badge number, contact information, and the number for the police report.
  5. Get witness information, such as names and contact numbers.
  6. Do not admit fault.

Once these things have taken place, now is a good time to take photos of your vehicle, the other vehicles involved, and the accident scene. This can work in your favor and provide helpful information to your insurance company. Include in the picture license plates, street signs, and any other information you believe may be helpful. This can also help you recall details at a later date.

Only after these things are done, call the insurance company to report the incident. You should do this even if you believe that you weren’t at fault. Do not let fear of rising premiums prevent you from contacting your insurance company. If they discover that you didn’t report an accident later through police records, that will negatively affect your premiums.

However, don’t put it off too long. Many states have statutes of limitations that govern how long you have to file a personal injury claim. For accidents involving city, county, or state vehicles, this statute of limitations can be even less time than a regular auto accident. A personal injury attorney will be familiar with the statute of limitations in your state.