How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident?

By Chris Dixon


There is never a good time to get into a car accident. Car accidents happen seemingly out of nowhere and require immediate action whether you are at-fault or not. If you are involved in an accident, the best advice is to report the car accident right after it happens. That being said, being involved in a car accident can be chaotic and stressful and often cloud victims’ judgement. It might slip the driver’s mind to file a car accident report, especially if they aren’t aware of their state’s Statute of Limitations on how long residents have to file a claim or believe that the accident is ‘minor’ and not urgent. To avoid reporting a car accident too late or being denied the right to file a claim, you should consult with a car accident lawyer immediately after an accident so that your rights can be protected.

Do You Have the Same Amount of Time in Each State to Report a Car Accident?

Car accidents should be reported immediately after they happen to not only make sure that those involved in the accident are safe, but to make sure that you are complying with your state’s traffic laws. Some states require accidents to be reported in a matter of weeks or months after they happen, while others give victims up to six years to report a car accident. Since rules vary vastly about how long you have to report a car accident, it is in the best interest of both you and other drivers involved to immediately report it. The police should be called after an accident so that an official police report can be filed that states exactly what happened in the accident, documents the scene and includes statements from drivers involved in the accident as well as any witnesses. Similarly, if anyone has been injured in the accident you need to call 911 immediately. Injuries from the accident can worsen if they go untreated and some injuries can be internal, so it is important to get immediate medical attention to diagnose, treat and document any injuries.

What Happens if I Report a Car Accident Too Late?

Every state has a Statute of Limitations that limits the amount of time that car accident victims have to report a car accident. It is essential to know your state’s Statute of Limitations because past this point your car accident claim will not be seen as valid. Evidence can deteriorate over time and details from accidents can be twisted and falsified in some cases, so to keep the legal system fair, honest and just, Statute of Limitations laws are in place. Your local lawyer can help you find out more about your state’s traffic laws and give advice on how you should best move forward with your case.

Take Action Immediately After a Car Accident

Your lawyer can help you in a myriad of ways after a car accident, but to make sure that you have the strongest claim possible they will need you to collect the following information for your car accident claim after reporting an accident:

  • Take pictures of everything you see at the scene of the accident. The more evidence you have for your case, the better. Vehicle damage, injuries, road marks, debris and license plates are all important things to document after a car accident.
  • Don’t forget to exchange contact information with the other drivers who are involved. Take down their name, number, address, insurance information and any other contact information that you can think to include.
  • Talk with any and all witnesses to the accident. Other drivers at the time of the accident, pedestrians and anyone else that was present at the time of the car accident are important sources of information for depicting what happened in the accident.
  • Even if you think that a car accident isn’t serious, call the police. They will file a police report that includes official documentation of the accident, statements from witnesses, harmful elements that may have caused the crash (bad weather, lighting, etc.), opinions of what they believe the causation of the accident is, and who they think is at-fault.
  • Get checked out by a physician directly after the accident. If anyone is injured, call 911. All injuries from the accident should be diagnosed, treated and documented in an official medical report.

Should I Handle My Car Accident Without a Lawyer?

Car accident victims can certainly make the choice to handle their car accident without the help of a lawyer, but it is not recommended. Not hiring a lawyer after reporting a car accident may mean accepting a lower settlement for damages, paying more for the other driver’s damages and paying more out-of-pocket for the accident than you would’ve if you hired a lawyer. Car accident lawyers typically use a contingency plan or offer payment arrangements. A contingency plan means that you won’t have to pay for legal services until your lawyer wins damages for your claim, and even then it is only a small percentage of the money you’ll win from your car accident settlement. This can be a small price to pay to have someone by your side who knows your state’s laws, is well-versed in the legal system and will fight until they receive the most in compensation for your car accident claim. If you would like to learn more about how lawyer can help with your car accident case and how long you have in your state to report a car accident, contact the Dixon Injury Firm for more information.

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