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Ask the Car Insurance Expert

I had a car accident during snow season. I initially thought I only had damage to the headlight so I told the insurance company I didn't want to file a claim. Now that the snow and ice have finally melted and I started using that car again, I realize there is more damage than I thought. Is it too late to file a claim?

No, it’s not too late to file a claim if it’s only been a few months since the incident.  Typically you have up to a year or two (depending upon terms of your policy and/or state laws) to make a claim.  To find out how long specifically you have, you can ask your car insurance provider.

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It’s good that you reported the accident when it happened, so the car insurance company is aware that your vehicle was damaged a few months back around the headlight area.  This means it will likely give you less grief than if you had an accident months ago and just were getting around to reporting it.

However, be prepared for the insurance adjuster to scrutinize the claim and make certain that all the damage came from that one incident during the wintertime. Auto insurance companies tend to be suspicious of someone reporting additional damage many months later.  As long as your description of the accident and the damage match and the adjuster can clearly see it was all from one incident, it should be okay. 

If, for some reason, the adjuster believes the newly found damage and the headlight damage you previously reported did not occur at the same time, then you would be asked to make two claims and pay two deductibles to get all damages repaired.

If the damage is altogether minor, then you may want to forget about making a claim and pay personally for the repair costs.  This would keep a claim off your auto insurance claims history, and likely help keep your future car insurance rates from going up.

If you do have to make a claim and your rates do rise, all is not lost.  You can comparison shop for car insurance rate quotes, and possibly save hundreds of dollars with an insurer that doesn’t rate as harshly on claims.

Last updated: Jun. 9, 2014
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