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How long can someone wait to claim against my policy?


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Question: I hit a car last Christmas, and it’s been about six months now since the car owner called me about repairing his car. No insurance company has ever been contacted.  Am I still liable at this point?   Has he missed his window to have me pay or to make a claim with my insurer? 

Answer:   Yes, you’re still liable for the damages you caused the other driver six months ago.

State laws vary on how long a person has to make a property damage accident claim, or file a lawsuit, but the other party will have at the very least a year to do so.

In many states, the statute of limitations is longer –- typically between two and six years. Rhode Island allows 10 years for property damage lawsuits to be filed.

I’d caution you on paying on your own for damages to the car you hit, especially since six months have passed. The vehicle could have sustained more damage that the owner could try to pin on you and have you pay for.

Paying on your own for damages to another car in general can be pretty tricky unless you and the other car owner totally agree to what damages were done and the cost to fix them. And even then, there is a possibility that once the repairs are started, more damage will be found, and the costs will go up to an amount you can’t afford.

The smart way to go, in most cases, is to have the auto accident claim filed with your auto insurance company. They will determine what damages you caused and deal directly with the other car owner so that you don’t have to.

You mentioned that no claims had been filed yet, but have you notified your car insurance company of the incident? Most auto insurance policies state that you are required to report all accidents to have the full benefits of your coverages.

Your policy might give a specific amount of time in which to report the accident or might just say within a reasonable amount of time. You need to contact your insurer about the incident to make sure that any resulting claims, property damage liability for the other driver or collision for your own damage, will be accepted now that six months have passed.

Having an accident and claims made against you could affect your future car insurance rates.

If at renewal time you see an increase in your premium with your current insurer, shop around with other car insurance companies. You likely will find that spending a little time doing comparison shopping could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars annually.

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