After an accident, dealing with insurance paperwork and phone calls is one of the last things a driver wants to do. However, it is important to give your insurance provider some kind of notice as soon as possible after a collision. Failing to do so within the required time frame may cause you to lose the chance to make a claim or get paid, and even cause additional headaches later on.  

Exactly how long should you wait before telling your insurance provider about the incident?

Most insurance companies will tell you to contact them immediately after the accident if possible. In some cases where the vehicle damage is severe or the policyholder is injured, this is not always realistic, but they should still be contacted shortly afterward. 

Each policy has specific responsibilities written into it that must be followed by all drivers listed in the coverage documents. If you are unsure about any of these issues, it is best to contact them directly with questions and concerns. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you may violate your policy terms by not getting in touch with them in time. 

If you are not satisfied with your insurance company due to costs or service issues, you can easily switch to another provider that may be less expensive or more convenient for you. Some insurance companies now have mobile phone apps where you can notify them of the accident by simply taking a picture at the scene and submitting it through your phone. If this service is available, it provides that same kind of notice as a call or written documentation. 

Claims may be barred by local laws if you wait too long

Under state law, there is a time frame between ten and thirty days depending on your location to file an insurance claim. If you wait longer than this period set by your local legislature, you will not be able to get any money for repairs from your insurance company.  

At some point after an accident, you will have to get on the phone with your insurance company.

What happens if you do not contact them at all?

If you do not contact your insurance company, and they find out based on another driver reporting your vehicle to them and a claim is filed, they can choose to take action against you. This may include increasing your rates or dropping your policy completely. In some jurisdictions, it is also a criminal offense to not report an accident. 

There are some limited circumstances where the insurance company does not need to be notified at all. This includes accidents with very minor damage, or incidents where your car collided with a stationary object and little to no noticeable damage was caused. You should always exchange information with any other drivers involved, but it may be possible to not report the accident if you both believe a very small amount of damage is not worth going through the insurance process. 

Get professional help with accidents and the insurance process

To get assistance from an attorney in your area who handles car accident cases and insurance claims, use the listings on Lawyers in your city can discuss the specifics of your situation and give professional advice regarding how to proceed with a lawsuit or other actions.