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Do I have to report a car accident the next day?

by Tara


My mother in law was driving my car yesterday with me in the car and caused considerable body damage by hitting a curb. She doesn't want to file the claim until after the new year. Can't I be faulted by my insurance company because I waited?

I was always told to file the claim either that day or at least the next. Please help.



It depends. All insurance policies in the U.S. have the "Duty to Report Losses" written in the duties of the insured. There is no question about that your policy has this clause in it.

However, some policies (and states) give you a "reasonable time to file" What is a reasonable time? It could be a week, a month, but it depends (there is that word again) on the specific facts.

Some other policies require you to file within a week, or as soon as you learn about the damage (i.e. the day of the car accident). So, you need to read your policy to determine how much time do you have.

We are not sure why your mother in law does not want to file until next year (probably to not deal with the insurance until after the holidays). You could call your insurance company and tell them of the claim. You can have them inspect the vehicle after the New Year, they will probably will do that as a customer service thing. They are pretty busy around this time, so they will love to wait.

One side note: It is better to have the vehicle inspect as soon as possible. Insurance companies can be sneaky and claim later that because there is rust then the damage is older than the one you are claiming. Or if the damage looks old then you are not covered. two to three weeks will not show rust, but you get our point.

Good Luck.

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