How Long Do You Have to File a Car Insurance Accident Claim in California?

Do I Have to Tell Insurers About My Wreck? | The Law Offices of Mickey Fine

When you are involved in a car accident, your first priority is to receive any necessary medical treatment as soon as possible. One of the next steps you should take within a short period of time is to report the accident to your insurance company. If you wait too long to file a claim, you could lose your right to coverage. Another important way to protect your legal rights is to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as you are able.

Bakersfield car accident lawyer Mickey Fine has extensive experience dealing with insurance companies after serious accidents have left his clients severely injured. He knows the tactics insurance companies use the reduce and deny valid claims, and he is committed to helping wrongfully injured accident victims obtain the compensation they need to move forward.

How Long After an Accident Can You File a Claim With an Insurance Company?

The first question is, do you have to report a car accident to your insurance company in California? Like many legal questions, the answer is… it depends.

Insurance Companies Can Set Their Own Deadlines for Claims

While California law establishes deadlines for reporting a car accident to the police and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), it does not establish a deadline for reporting a car accident to your insurance company. Instead, the deadline for filing a claim is determined by the terms of your specific auto insurance policy. 

Different insurance companies have different deadlines. Some companies give their policyholders a certain number of days to report an accident, for example, 30, 60, or 90 days. Others simply state that policyholders must report their accidents “promptly,” “within a reasonable amount of time,” or “as soon as possible.” 

To find out how long you have to file car insurance accident claims, you will need to review the details of your policy. Some auto insurance policies may include the reporting deadline on the Declarations page, which is the summary at the front of your policy. But you may also need to look through your policy to find the language that addresses how long you have to file an insurance claim based on your accident.

Insurance policies are not written in language the average consumer will understand. It can be complicated to find and comprehend the terms that apply to your unique circumstances. If you can’t find your policy’s reporting deadline on your own, it’s important to ask a car accident lawyer to review your policy for you.

Missing filing deadlines after a serious car crash can severely impact your right to receive the compensation you deserve and the coverage you have paid for over years of paying insurance policy premiums.

You Should Always Report a Car Insurance Accident Claim As Soon As Possible

Regardless of how long you have to file an insurance claim with your car accident insurance company, it is always a good idea to file a claim as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it can become to prove your right to coverage. 

One issue you can encounter if you wait too long is your insurance company may say it can no longer conduct an adequate investigation. If your insurer can’t investigate the circumstances surrounding your collision to determine the cause of the accident and who is at fault, it isn’t going to accept liability.

You can (and should) hire a skilled car accident lawyer to investigate as well. Working with a dedicated personal injury lawyer at the very start is crucial to protecting your rights since they can help preserve evidence and determine who is liable for your injuries and financial losses.  

Another issue you can encounter if you wait to file a car insurance accident claim is your insurance company may claim your injuries are not related to your accident. This issue has more to do with procrastination in general. If you delay seeing a doctor in addition to waiting to contact your insurance company, your medical records may not support your claim that you suffered your injuries in the collision. 

Insurance companies, even your own insurer, work hard to limit the dollar amount of accident claims they pay every year. If the company can find a way to reduce or deny your claim, it will. For instance, if you wait two weeks to see a doctor after a car crash, the insurance company may argue that the injuries you are claiming were related to a different situation, such as a fall or a totally different accident. Timing is important to link the accident to your losses.

5 Important Tips to Remember When Reporting an Accident Car Insurance Claim

While you should contact your insurance company promptly, you need to be very careful when doing so. Here are five important tips about reporting a car accident claim to your insurance company in California:

  • Only provide the basic facts. When reporting your car insurance accident claim, only give the company the minimal information required in order to file a claim. Do not make any assumptions or guesses, and do not be shy about saying, “I don’t know,” if you just don’t have an answer. 
  • Do not admit fault. No matter what happened, you should not say you were at fault (or even that you may have been at fault) in your car accident. Determining the cause of the accident and who can be held liable will require a thorough investigation. However, this won’t stop your insurance company from using your words against you whenever possible. 
  • Request a written claim confirmation. Whether you report your accident over the phone, online, or using an app, request written confirmation from the company. This way, there won’t be any questions about whether you reported your accident on time. You should also keep track of everything you do after an accident, including dates of conversations, who you speak to, and any related financial information.
  • Hire a lawyer to deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. Instead of trying to handle your situation on your own, you can hire a car accident lawyer to help you. Your lawyer will deal with aggressive insurance adjusters or lawyers for the other party on your behalf, and they will fight to make sure you receive the full compensation you deserve. 
  • Reporting your accident is just the start of the process. When you are involved in an auto crash, filing a car insurance accident claim with your insurance company is just the beginning of a complicated legal process. You may have a long battle in front of you to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve, and you must be very careful to make sure the insurance companies don’t take advantage of you. Partnering with a dedicated car crash lawyer is crucial at this point.

Call a Bakersfield Car Insurance Accident Claim Lawyer for a Free Consultation Today

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Bakersfield or the surrounding area, we can handle your car insurance accident claim for you. We have decades of experience, and we have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients.

For a no-obligation, confidential case review, reach out online or call (661) 333-3333 today. We are here to provide a FREE initial consultation at your convenience.

Car Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
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