How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company?

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How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company

Getting into a car accident can be a nerve-wracking experience, but accidents happen on the road. You should tell your insurance company about a car accident as soon as possible. Most insurance policies require you to report accidents promptly, usually within a few days to a week. Reporting promptly helps ensure a smooth claims process. If you wait too long, it could complicate things or even result in your claim being denied. So, it’s important not to delay in letting your insurance company know about the accident. Read on to understand more about the timeframes and how long you have to report a car accident to your insurance company, along with how the process works. 

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Why is it important to report a car accident to your insurance company?

So, why is it so important to tell your insurance company about a car accident ASAP? Well, first off, it’s usually part of the agreement when you sign up for car insurance. You’re basically making a pact with your insurance company, and they expect you to keep them in the loop if something goes down with your ride. If you don’t, it’s like breaking your end of the deal, and that could lead to them saying, “Sorry, we can’t help you” when you really need it.

There are rules that say you must report accidents within a certain timeframe, which varies among states. If you don’t follow those rules, you might end up facing fines. Nobody wants that hassle.

But it’s not just about rules and contracts. Timely reporting makes life easier for everyone. When you report an accident quickly, the insurance company can jump into action faster. They can figure out the damage, sort out the repair costs, and get your claim rolling. If you wait, things could get messy and take way longer.

Reporting promptly shows the insurance company that you’re responsible, and that’s a big deal. It could lead to smoother claims, better communication, and maybe even lower premiums down the road. But if you drag your feet, it could sour the relationship, and you don’t want that.

What are the typical deadlines for reporting a car accident?

Most car insurance companies don’t set a strict deadline for reporting accidents. They operate with ‘the sooner, the better’ mindset. 

Take Progressive, for instance. They say that you shouldn’t delay contacting your insurer. Geico is on the same page, urging you to report things as soon as possible.

It’s all about common sense. The faster you let your insurance peeps know what’s happened, the smoother the whole process tends to go. They can swing into action, assess the situation, and start sorting things out for you. Waiting around just adds unnecessary bumps in the road.

Even though there’s no exact countdown, it’s all about being quick on the draw when it comes to reporting accidents. 

Exceptions and special cases

Now, if you’re unfortunate enough to be in a hit-and-run situation where the other driver bolts without leaving their info, things could be a bit different. In cases like these, it’s crucial to report the incident to the police and your insurance company immediately. Timely reporting helps you tap into uninsured motorist coverage if you have it, which could cover the damage caused by the elusive driver.

Another tricky scenario is when you have an accident with someone who’s uninsured. In this case, reporting promptly is essential too. Your insurance company needs to know right away so they can handle the situation and potentially go after the uninsured driver to recover the costs. 

Why should you report a car accident promptly?

Delaying the report could lead to a handful of headaches. For one, it might jeopardize your insurance coverage. If you wait too long, your insurer might question the validity of your claim. It could make you wonder if the accident really happened the way you say it did. Plus, it could slow down the whole claims process, leaving you stuck without your wheels for longer than necessary.

When you report promptly and provide all the necessary info, your insurance company could act swiftly to assess the damage, arrange repairs, and handle medical bills. But if you drag your feet, it’s like tossing a wrench into the works. The more accurate and timely your info, the better your chances of getting back on the road without any issues.

Steps to follow when reporting a car accident

Here is a breakdown of the steps to follow when reporting a car accident to your insurance company.

Step 1: Ensure safety

First, make sure everyone involved in the accident is safe. Check for injuries and seek medical attention if necessary. If it’s safe to do so, move your vehicles out of traffic to prevent further accidents.

Step 2: Call the police

In most cases, it’s a good idea to call the police, especially if there are injuries or significant damage. A police report can be crucial for your insurance claim.

Step 3: Exchange information

Collect information from all parties involved.

  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of drivers and passengers
  • Vehicle information (make, model, year, and license plate numbers)
  • Insurance information (insurance company name and policy number)
  • Witness information (if applicable)

Step 4: Document the scene

Take photos of the accident scene, including:

  • Damage to all vehicles involved
  • Road conditions
  • Traffic signs and signals
  • Skid marks or debris

These photos could serve as valuable evidence for your claim.

Step 5: Notify your insurance company

Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. It will guide you on the specific information it needs and the process to follow. Provide all details accurately.

Step 6: Obtain a copy of the police report

If the police were called to the scene, request a copy of the accident report. This document could be crucial when filing your claim.

Step 7: Keep detailed records

Maintain a record of all communications with your insurance company, including names, dates, and summaries of conversations.

Keep copies of all documents related to the accident, such as repair estimates, medical bills, and receipts.

Step 8: Follow your insurance company’s Instructions

Your insurer will guide you through the claims process. Follow instructions carefully, including deadlines for submitting documents or information.

Step 9: Cooperate with adjusters

Your insurance company may send an adjuster to assess the damage to your vehicle. Cooperate fully during this process, providing access to your vehicle and any requested information.

Step 10: Be honest and accurate

When dealing with your insurance company, provide honest and accurate information. Misrepresenting facts can lead to complications in your claim.

How can reporting a car accident affect your insurance rates?

It’s important to discuss your specific situation with your insurance agent to understand the potential consequences associated with the accident. But there are things you can do to minimize the impact.

Impact on insurance premiums

Reporting a car accident could often lead to an increase in your insurance premiums. Insurance companies consider you a higher risk if you’ve been in an accident, and they may raise your rates to compensate for that increased risk. The exact amount of the increase may vary based on several factors, including the severity of the accident, your driving history, and your insurance company’s policies.

Future policy renewal

Reporting an accident can also impact your ability to renew your policy with your current insurer. While they may not cancel your policy immediately, they might choose not to renew it when it expires. In such cases, you’ll need to find coverage with a different insurer, which could be more expensive if you have a recent accident on your record.

Strategies for minimizing insurance rate increases

Here are some strategies to consider to minimize the impact on insurance rates:

Safe driving discount

Some insurance companies offer safe driving programs or discounts. By consistently practicing safe driving habits, you may be eligible for discounts that could offset rate increases.

Accident forgiveness

Check if your insurer offers accident forgiveness programs. This feature means your first accident may not result in a rate hike.

Bundle your policies

Combining your car insurance with other types of coverage, like home or renters insurance, might earn you a discount.

Shop around

If your rates increase significantly after an accident, it’s a good idea to shop around for other insurance providers. Different companies have different policies and pricing structures, so you may find a better deal elsewhere.

PRO TIP! If you’re curious about other auto insurance options, MoneyLion can help. Search numerous insurers and find savings in seconds at the Auto Insurance Marketplace. Plus get free support with some partners when you make the switch.

Increase deductibles

If you can afford it, consider raising your deductible. A higher deductible typically leads to lower premiums.

Maintain a clean record

Avoiding further accidents and traffic violations could help offset the impact of a previous accident over time. Many insurers offer discounts for accident-free and violation-free driving.

Take defensive driving courses

Completing a defensive driving course could sometimes qualify you for a discount with your insurer.

You can also save hundreds* on auto insurance by turning on Driver Score powered by Zendrive1, a program that measures your safe driving habits, such as your speed, braking, and acceleration.

*Average savings is based on program data. Not all drivers will be eligible or qualify for an offer or discount. Actual savings varies based on your driving behavior. Not valid in CA or certain other states.  

Driving Toward Financial Safety 

Reporting a car accident isn’t the best part of being on the road, but it’s like following the GPS to your insurance’s heart. Sure, accidents can sometimes make your insurance rates rise, but it’s not a reason to avoid reporting one. There are ways to soften the blow, like keeping your driving skills top-notch and hunting for insurance discounts.

Remember that being responsible behind the wheel is your secret weapon. It keeps your insurance company happy, your wallet healthier, and your future adventures on the road full of open highways and smooth sailing.


Who should I contact first after a car accident: my insurance company or the police?

Your first call should typically be to the police, especially if there are injuries or significant damage. They will create an accident report, which can be essential for your insurance claim. After that, you should contact your insurance company to report the accident.

Can I report a car accident directly to my insurance company if it wasn’t my fault?

Yes, you can and should report the accident to your insurance company, even if it wasn’t your fault. They need to know about the incident, and it’s a standard procedure. Your insurance company can guide you on how to proceed, and they may need to coordinate with the other driver’s insurer.

Do I need to report a car accident even if I don’t plan on making an insurance claim?

Yes, it’s generally a good idea to report the accident to your insurance company, even if you don’t plan to make a claim. Sometimes, injuries or damages may not be immediately apparent, and reporting the accident preserves your right to file a claim later if needed. Your insurance company can provide guidance on the best course of action.

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