| Read Time: 4 minutes | Car Accidents
how long after an accident can you file a claim

California car insurance companies may have different requirements and procedures for filing an accident claim.

While the state sets general guidelines and legal requirements, insurance companies can have specific policies and practices that policyholders must follow when filing a claim. Similarly, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit is generally two years from the accident date.

It is essential to consult with a car accident attorney to understand the complex interplay between accident insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits. 

When to Report a Car Accident to an Insurance Company 

In California, reporting an accident to your insurance company as soon as possible is generally advisable.

While no specific legal requirement states an exact deadline, timely reporting is crucial to ensure a smooth claims process. Most insurance policies contain provisions that mandate prompt reporting of accidents to the insurer. Delays in reporting can lead to complications or even the denial of a claim.

Moreover, some policies require reporting within a specified timeframe, varying from 24 to 72 hours. To fully understand your obligations, you must review your insurance policy, consult with an attorney, and promptly contact your insurer after an accident to report the incident.

Information to Include in Car Accident Claim

When reporting an accident to a California car insurance company, you should provide comprehensive and accurate information to facilitate the claims process. While the exact requirements may vary between insurers; generally, the following data is important:

  • Accident details such as the date, time, and location of the accident, as well as the number of vehicles involved;
  • Contact information, including your name, address, phone number, and email address;
  • Vehicle information, like the vehicles’ make, model, year, and license plate numbers. Additionally, provide your vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) if available;
  • Driver information, such as the names, driver’s license numbers, and insurance information of all drivers involved, including their insurance company names and policy numbers;
  • Witness information and statements;
  • Police report, including the officer’s name and badge number;
  • Injuries sustained during the accident, even if they seem minor at the time;
  • Description of the accident, such as how the accident happened, including the sequence of events and any relevant factors; and
  • Photos and documentation of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and injuries. 

It’s advisable to consult with an attorney when reporting these details to your insurance company. 

When to File a Personal Injury Claim After a California Car Accident?

If the insurance company disputes liability, offers an inadequate settlement, or denies your claim, you may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.

The statute of limitations in California typically provides a two-year window from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. Still, it’s essential to consult with an attorney to understand your case’s circumstances and legal options.

Consulting with a personal injury attorney is advisable in such situations. They can assess your case, negotiate with insurance companies, and guide you on whether filing a lawsuit is necessary to pursue the compensation you deserve.

What Damages Does Insurance Claim Cover?

California accident claims can cover various damages you may have incurred due to the accident. These damages can be broadly categorized into two main groups: property damage and personal injury damages.

Insurance typically covers the cost of repairing your vehicle or, if it’s deemed a total loss, the actual cash value of your vehicle at the time of the accident.

If your vehicle is in the shop for repairs, your insurance policy may cover the cost of a rental car for a specified period. Further, your insurance policy can also cover the costs associated with transporting and storing your damaged vehicle.

Your insurance might cover medical bills related to injuries sustained in the accident, including hospital stays, surgeries, prescription medications, and ongoing treatment.

Insurance can cover compensation for the physical and emotional distress resulting from the accident, including pain, anxiety, and any reduction in your quality of life. If your injuries prevent you from working, your insurance claim can cover lost income, including future earning potential.

Further, if any personal items were damaged in the accident (e.g., a laptop or smartphone), these may also be covered up to policy limits.

In cases where a car accident results in a fatality, insurance claims can include compensation for funeral and burial expenses, as well as loss of financial support for surviving family members.

FAQs About California Car Insurance Claim Time Limits 

Who Do I File a Car Accident Claim With?

In California, you can typically file a car accident claim with your own insurance company, as it is a “fault” state, which means that each driver’s insurance is primarily responsible for covering their damages and injuries.

However, if another party’s negligence caused the accident, you may file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

How Long After an Accident Can You File a Claim?

The California statute of limitations for auto accidents is two years. However, there may be exceptions that would permit you to move forward with your case even if more than two years have passed.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your case to help you determine if you still have time to file a lawsuit. 

What Happens If I Miss Car Accident Reporting Deadline?

Missing reporting deadlines may complicate any legal actions you wish to take. If you intend to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, late reporting could weaken your case and result in delays and denials. 

What If Insurance Coverage Does Not Cover All Damages?

If negotiations with the insurance company do not result in a fair settlement, you may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This can allow you to pursue compensation for your damages through the court system.

Remember that California operates under a comparative negligence system, which means your compensation may be reduced if you are found partially at fault for the accident.

Are You Considering an LA Car Accident Lawsuit But Are Worried About the Timing?

If you are worried about how long after an accident can you file a claim, it is important to contact an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. While the general rule provides that you have two years to file a lawsuit, there are exceptions.

At Peerali Law, our experienced LA car accident attorneys have extensive experience helping clients recover meaningful compensation for all of their accident-related expenses. We’re also well-versed in developing compelling explanations for what otherwise may be considered late-filed claims.

To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Los Angeles accident lawyer at Peerali Law today, call 818-650-3463. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.

Author Photo

Kristopher earned his J.D. at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law where he was a member of the Review of Law and Social Justice honors law journal and was awarded several scholastic honors.

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