State laws vary on how long one can take to make a claim (or file a lawsuit). If there is no statute of limitations that a state mandates then an insurance company has their own internal guidelines that one must follow to place a claim within a prescribed time period. To give you a very generalized time limit for making claims it would normally be required to be done within a year or 2 for physical damages to a vehicle.
There are some states that have specific laws or statutes with regards to filing claims while others may allow your insurance policy and insurers guidelines dictate how long you have to place a claim. This is also true of how long an insurer has to respond to a claim. Some states have specific laws in place while others just say within a reasonable amount of time.
Most all insurance contracts contain provisions stating how long you have to file a claim or suit against the company. This is known as a Contractual statute of limitations. If you do not file a claim or a lawsuit within this time period, you may lose all rights to recover for your claim.
For example, your policy may state that you have one year from the date the claim arose (the date the injury or accident occurred), or from the date the claim was filed, or from the date the claim was denied, to file suit.
For example, California has a fair claims settlement regulation in place for consumers. Section 2695.4 notes that every insurer shall disclose first party claimant or beneficiary, all benefits, coverage, time limits or other provision of any insurance policy issued by that insurer that may apply to the claim presented by the claimant. When additional benefits might reasonably be payable under an insured's policy upon receipt of additional proofs of claim, the insurer shall immediately communicate this fact to the insured and cooperate with and assist the insured in determining the extent of the insurer's additional liability.
If no time period is mentioned in the policy, you will need to research your state's laws concerning any applicable legal statutes of limitations.
It is a good idea to file your claim as soon as you can. If you wait to place a claim with your insurance company or a third party claim with another insurer, you may need to explain on why there was the delay. Also the adjuster may want to take a more comprehensive look at your vehicle to make sure no other damage was done after the accident and before the claim was placed.
You should contact your specific insurance carrier's claims department to find out additional details on the time limits there are to make collision claims. As for state laws, you can contact your state insurance regulator for information on any time limits you have to make an auto insurance claim and also on what the laws are regarding time limits for the insurance company to respond to the claim.
For example in New York if your car is damaged or stolen and you have auto collision or comprehensive insurance coverage, you have the right to a prompt and fair settlement from your insurance company, either for the amount of the damages or the actual cash value of the car, whichever is lower. If your car is stolen and subsequently recovered, your insurer must pay for the damage done to the car while it was missing, the cost of towing, any reasonable storage charges, and substitute transportation expenses.
The NYS Insurance Department's Regulation 64 is designed to assure a prompt and fair settlement from your insurance company. This regulation provides the guidelines and time limits within which an insurer must handle any claims you make, under auto collision and comprehensive insurance, and with property damage liability claims you make against another driver.
Under these regulatory standards, in responding to a claim made under the comprehensive or collision coverages of your policy, your auto insurer must do the following:
- inspect the damaged vehicle and make a good faith offer within six business days after receiving notification of the loss, provided that your car is available for inspection. A good faith offer is one that can be backed up with the name of a Department of Motor Vehicles-registered repair shop that will perform the repairs at the insurer's offer;
- promptly give you or your authorized representative a detailed written estimate of the cost of repairs;
- upon your request, identify a conveniently located auto repair shop that will repair your car at the insurance company's
- estimated cost of repair and give you a written guarantee, backed by your insurer, of the work performed; however, you retain the right, pursuant to the Insurance Law, to choose which shop will repair your damaged vehicle;
- pay the actual cash value (retail value plus sales tax), which is subject to depreciation and applicable deductions, if your car is a total loss because it was stolen or damaged beyond repair, or replace it with a substantially similar car, in accordance with governing regulatory standards;
- make payment within five (5) business days after you and the insurer have agreed upon a settlement;
- furnish you with a written explanation of the reasons for delay if your claim has not been settled within 30 days after the date you notified the insurer of the loss.
It is important to not only know the time limits in which to make a claim but your rights under your policy, if making a first party claim, and under state laws. Your insurance regulatory body can tell you more about your consumer rights per state laws.